"J'ai deux minutes!" Mademoiselle announced proudly when I went to pick her up at the nanny's one evening two days before her second birthday.
"Non," insisted N, "Tu as deux ans." And Mademoiselle duly repeated after her nanny, good student that she is. I laughed. Why correct her? It certainly has felt like two minutes to me, from her hurried arrival until now. She's two: a blond sprite that climbs everything, runs around with a rapid cartoonish stride and speaks in complete sentences, most of which end with "moi."
When Le Petit (who isn't so petit now himself) asks for something or makes a statement, Mademoiselle repeats the same thing or the exact opposite, according to her mood.
"Je veux du pain aussi, moi."
"Je ne suis pas fatiguée, moi!"
She narrates everything: where she's going, what she's doing, what she notices around her. She speaks in sentences that I'm pretty sure are more complex than those Le Petit used at the same age. With a soft, timid finger, she points at my eyes, my eyelashes, my lips, opens my mouth and touches my teeth, taps my shoulder. "What's this?" she asks in French with each gesture, and I try to teach her the corresponding words in English. She listens avidly but almost never uses any English words herself.
She's tall for her age, almost in the middle of the curve for three years old at her last checkup. I'm short: she doesn't take after me there. Her face is round, and I see in it my husband's and my mother-in-law's faces. There's nothing of Le Petit's oval face, where I see my strong nose and marked chin, also my dad's and my grandfather's features. But she reacts as I do to those around her being upset, to strongly-worded reprimands, to people's emotions. She smiles often and visibly enjoys when people smile back. Le Petit is reserved, often difficult to decipher, sometimes oblivious to social cues, but genuine and trusting. Like his father.
Mademoiselle climbs to the top of the play structure by herself, the one for big kids when I have my back turned. She's fearless. When smaller kids don't go down the slide fast enough, she pushes them so she can have her turn. She hits, she sometimes even bites, she loves seeing the reaction she gets; we're teaching her with some success to tap gently on a shoulder and quietly call a name instead.
In the morning, she calls for me from her crib, most of the time. It's one of the few moments in the day when I'm (almost) indispensable. If it's early, I take her into our bed and she snuggles next to me, sometimes gently caressing my cheek or grasping my chin.
We put up the Christmas tree today. Le Petit and I decorated it while Mademoiselle napped and my husband went for a run. Mademoiselle walked into the living room and beheld a bright sparkling vision, something even our morning trip to the Christmas decoration department at IKEA hadn't prepared her for: a real Christmas tree in her very home. I can't describe what she said or exactly how, but I thought to myself that it was all that is wonderful -- in the true sense of the word -- about two years old, concentrated in a laugh and a few sing-song sentences.
When my husband came back, she took hold of his hand and pulled him over to the tree. "Look," she said. "Un 'apin de noël!" Le Petit did it, she explained. And Le Petit was proud.