I was in the kitchen preparing dinner, and the baby was crying in the other room. (That is not the amazing part, I promise.)
There was a toddler hanging onto one leg and another toddler hanging onto the other leg. I was trying to get the sweet potato wedges in the oven while sautéing the onions for the Italian sausages and husking the corn. This is an intricate balancing act between using sharp objects and moving them quickly, pulling bodies off the climb toward the counter, and trying to remember what my hands are supposed to be doing to advance the situation forward.
I was juggling this "make the dinner" chaos carefully, but the crying baby was really putting me over the edge.
He wasn't hungry; I had just fed him. He wasn't hurting; he was safely strapped into his bouncy seat. I couldn't leave the kitchen to go hold him because the toddlers would quickly take over dinner prep, and I knew that would end badly.
I looked down at my 4 year old little girl and wished she could step up and be Mommy's helper.
"Addison, go take care of the baby." I said while spinning around to rescue Carter from the pantry where he just discovered an opened bag of chocolate chips.
The words came out of my mouth, but I didn't believe them. What was she going to do? She wouldn't leave the counter climbing/hanging onto mom fun that is the hour before dinner each day. She is fully capable of obeying instructions, but she tends to carefully pick and choose which ones she listens to. There was no way for me to enforce this without Carter jumping up to head chef, and without enforcement she usually ignores my requests.
I soon forgot about Addison as I discovered Carter putting the corn into the boiling water when I turned my back for a second to throw the husks into the trash. (Seriously, this kid has the gift of being everywhere at once and in everything at once. An extra couple of arms would be extremely useful around here) Putting him back down to the floor, I was lecturing him on the dangers of the stove and "hot" things when I heard it.
The baby completely stopped crying.
At first the silence panicked me. Did something happen? Where did Addison go? Is she feeding popcorn to the baby again?
As I paused for a minute to assess the situation, I then heard laughter.
Tiny baby giggles bubbled up with Addison giggles, and I simply had to go see what was going on.
Ducking out of the kitchen and dragging Carter with me, we paused in the Dining Room to see a beautiful sight.
There was the baby buckled safely in his bouncy seat. Hovering over him was his big sister- taking care of her baby- just as I had requested.
Her face was right in his. He was staring at her as if his life depended on it. She laughed at him. He giggled in return. She grabbed his hand, and his other arm reached for her hair. She ducked away and said "Ewi. Baby. Ewi. Baby." She then started telling him a story I couldn't understand specifics, but her hand gestures, facial expressions, and rise and fall of her words made it clear- it was a doozy.
This moment was perhaps my favorite moment in a very long time.
Because in this moment she wasn't the big little sister. She was the BIG sister, taking care of HER baby. The baby was crying and needed her, so she left dinner prep entertainment and took care of the situation- all on her own. She soothed the baby by talking to him, and his crying stopped.
In this moment she wasn't 4 with the development of a 2 year old. She was every day of FOUR. She was little Mama. She was my helper. She was a little girl who loves babies.
I could only enjoy the sight for a brief moment before I got dragged back into the kitchen by Carter who was eager for his next set of chef duties. I couldn't even take a picture because my phone was another room away and it just wasn't safe to leave long enough to go find it.
But I tucked the memory away in my heart. I pull it out when I need to remember- she's getting it. She's growing up. This girl is full of surprises, and this one took my breath away.
I know I have written about Addison not being fully 4 and that making new baby transition more difficult. In that moment I ate those words. Because she entertained the baby the rest of dinner prep time, and I was able to get a fully prepared meal on the table without a screaming baby and with no kitchen injuries from Carter because of a distracted Mommy.
Every time Mommy's helper passes by a loaded carseat, she takes it upon herself to close the flap. He now pulls himself forward and peers out as he waits to be carried out of the house. (-:
And if she passes by the carseat and it is not loaded with an occupant? She finds one for it.
Mommy's helper might be only a little bit bigger than her baby...but she makes it work.
Clearly, he is hurting from all the extra love. (-;
Mommy's helper- I love being proven wrong like this.