From a very young age Bella has known precisely how she likes to do things. She has always loved putting away toys, and further wrapping them, bagging them, tucking them away, and stashing them into little piles and collections. I have memories of her as an infant using her pinchers to lift up the flaps of hide-n-seek pop up books. It seemed impossible she could have that control; she couldn't even hold up her head. She has also been an avid art-maker, and there are many days I find myself prying her away from the dining room table, and wrestling colors from her grip.
Her public persona is measured, cautious, polite, clean and ordered. And at four, I am becoming alarmed at how much praise this accrues. I worry enough already on my own that her obsessive tenacity, and her leanings toward order and perfection already set up unhealthy expectations upon herself and others. However, lately, I am finding my ears physically burning when they hear the onslaught of the good kid compliments that she has been garnering recently. It aches my heart on many levels.
Compliments spoken over her that define our societies expectations. Comments of control, and order. Comments that carve out her understanding of how success is measured. She is so clean. Wow, she colors so accurately. What a deliberate and neat drawing. Look how good she colors perfectly within the lines. Often these compliments are teachable mentionings spoken over their own children, or Bella's little brother Nate, which breaks my heart over and over; this destructive power of our words. The emphasis and value we place on growing up our children into adults as quickly as possible. By training a competitive edge. Trading out curiosity, exploration, creativity, learning, freedom. Surely much of this attention to detail is her wiring, and her preference, and will be for some measures of good in her adult life. Seriously, check out her coloring page above...no direction or influence given to her whatsoever. Perfectly matching ballerina girls, symmetrical and ordered placement of the star stickers. My favorite part? The crazy nonlocal colorations of the faces, and all those lavender hands.
These are the wacky inclusions to all of the order that really interest and engage me. Because it's Bella's goofy-goofster side that she occasionally lets loose at home that reassures me. When she runs around in circles in the kitchen with her little brother, playing invented games. How she scribbles with both arms in huge gestural movements on our large chalk board. Listening to her make up insanely silly songs in the car, and when creating video performances with her digital camera. Watching as this silly Bella invents super nutty interpretations of our books, as she turns through the pages reading them to her baby dolls. Its these moments that make my heart smile. Moments when she lets go, and just acts like she is four. When her performance is entirely uninhibited and uncensored.