It’s amazing to watch children start to come into their own

I’m home alone with Rose today, who spent yesterday puking in our salad bowl (and on the floor, the couch, ... ). I’m trying to be a gracious mother, the kind who isn’t thinking about deadlines, but instead is preparing a Valentine’s Day craft on a table not buried in dishes and newspapers.

My poor, sick baby bursts into the living room wearing tap shoes and a leotard, instructing me to turn on the radio.

“Is my belly soooo precious?” she asks, her shiny shoes clapping the tile floor. “Is my belly your best friend?” Rose sticks out her tummy and leaps around the room. The radio plays Blondie’s “Atomic,” and Rose twirls and says, “I like the part where she says, ‘your hair is beautiful toooonight,’” mistaking sexual innuendo for some princess anthem.

I am watching her, this gorgeous 5-year-old girl creature with long, winter-pale legs, and thinking “Oh, yeah. Rosie loves music, she loves dancing.” Sometimes, I forget she’s not the toddler whose main interests are nursing, avocados and wearing my underwear on her head. And it’s partly that for years she’s been tagging along while Col patents himself as the first bike rider, the first reader of the family, the first to evolve beyond drawing scribbles, while Rose is still hunched over her paper, drawing, well, scribbles.

But lately, it’s like Rose is coming into focus; it’s like she’s erupting – geyser-like – out of the geological layer of our firstborn. And I feel sheepish writing this because it shouldn’t be a surprise, but Rose is so capable. Last weekend at the hot springs, while Dan, Col and I were lounging, hotly, on the steps, Rose flapped over to the limp pile of us and said casually, “I’m starting to swim and breathe and not touch the ground all at the same time.” And then she kicked away like a fish, having taught herself to swim while the rest of us were impersonating lobotomized lobsters.

And she does love music and dancing, which is to say, Rose is different than the rest of us. I think even at 8, Col is inclined toward growing tomatoes and hunting elk, whereas, Rose would be happy to spend the weekend browsing the pink plastic jewelry convention, or even at home sorting stickers and shiny beads. She recently explained that she doesn’t want to wear the brown hand-me-down sneakers, she wants “pretty shoes,” and you could almost hear the busy signal in my ears, because fashion occupies a dingy, shriveled space in my brain. Even my dad commented about how Rose spends a lot of time brushing her hair and changing her clothes, adding, “It’s funny, she doesn’t get that from you.”

Rose is tucking away the trundle bed I slept on last night in her room. She takes off the sheets and blankets and pillows and scoots them back to my room.

“I’m better, Mama, you can sleep in your own bed tonight.” And then she prances back to her room to change leotards, or sort fancy beads and stickers, to be her amazing, changeable, inspiring self.

Reach Rachel Turiel at sanjuandrive@frontier.net. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.