Devil or Angel?

I staggered into my daughter’s kitchen balancing a stack of gift-wrapped presents. Perched at the very top was a small brown paper sack. As I turned to set them down onto a kitchen cupboard, the bag began to slide. I stopped its rapid decent by using my right elbow to clamp it against my side. Hanging sideways, the sack disgorged an avocado and three tomatoes. They gracefully rolled out onto the counter without a single bruise.

Turning to survey the kitchen and the living room, I asked, “Where’s my birthday girl?” Then I spotted her. My sweet little blond, blue-eyed granddaughter was standing shyly behind one of the large dining room chairs. She was peering through the rungs at me with large, serious eyes.

I swooped over and reached for her. Only a slight upward lift of her arms indicated that she wanted me to pick her up. Putting her head down on my left shoulder, my sweet little angel submitted to the hug that I always give whenever I see her.

Turning to talk to my daughter, I spotted two birthday cakes on the table. One was a two layer chocolate cake covered with rich chocolate swirls of frosting. The other was a tall, white cake. Its top and sides were decorated with seven-minute frosting that stood stiffly at attention in sweet, creamy peaks.

Niki stood at the stove, looking after her meal preparations. Laughing, I questioned, “Anne gets TWO cakes for her first birthday? How many will she get for her second?”

With a delighted smile my daughter explained, “Mike’s mother made them for Anne. Whenever anyone has a birthday in his family, they get to ask for the type of cake they want. The only two cakes they ever ask for is devils food cake, and angel food cake.”

When it was time for desert, the two cakes were put on the table in front of Anne’s highchair. She leaned forward, and when a bit of frosting got on her small fingers, more than one camera flashed to record the moment. We laughed and applauded her every wiggle and squeak.

Wiggle and squeak was all that Anne could do when she was first born. As each week passed, she learned wonderful new skills, like hold up her own head…tightly grasp a toy…sit alone…crawl. Reaching the ripe old age of one-year didn’t slow down her development. On Christmas day, three and a half months after her first birthday, Anne was in rare form. Instead of walking, she ran. She insisted on playing with things that made us say, “Don’t touch!” rather than with her own toys. Being told, “No.” brought on wails of frustration.

Niki said, “Anne’s starting to act naughty lately.”

I turned to look at my granddaughter before answering, “She’s just acting the way a baby that age acts.”

“Like a big BAY-BEE?” my daughter questioned.

“Exactly!” I said with a laugh. “She’s practicing being a two year old.”

Anne’s father looked up from the gift Arnie was showing him to protest, “Anne’s too young. She can’t be going into her terrible two’s yet!”

I shrugged and said wryly, “Well, the terrible two’s won’t suddenly happen on the stroke of midnight on her second birthday.”

Everyone in the room must have stopped to think about what I’d said, because there was a moment of silence. In memory, I pictured Niki when she stopped acting like a little baby, and started to assert her independence. How old was she then? Then I remembered…it was in the middle of the summer after her first birthday…when she was fifteen months old!

I remembered telling Arnie about the change that was taking place in our toddler’s behavior. He said the same thing Mike said, “She’s too young! Niki can’t be going into her terrible two’s yet.”

Anne was playing quietly on the floor with several small stuffed toys. I picked one up. She pulled it back and announced, “Mine!”

I smiled and said, “OK.” Tammie got up and left the room. Anne forgot all about her toys, and got up to follow her aunt. A moment later we heard several shrill screams.

Seeing the look of alarm on my face, Niki calmly informed me, “Anne screams lately when someone goes to the bathroom and doesn’t let her in with them.”

It is very necessary for a baby to develop independence, but so unpleasant to deal with. One moment a baby can be sweet and silly, and the next, sassy and uncooperative. The more I think about it, the two cakes that Mike’s Mom made for Anne’s first birthday were very appropriate. Devil or Angel…baby to toddler…Anne was a sweet creature from heaven, but like all the rest of us at that age, she is prone to tantrums.



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