Lately, Wallie, my shy little bug of a girl, has been venturing out of her shell to explore the world on her own. The girl that buries herself in my pants whenever a stranger says "hi" (or appears to want to say "hi") to her or who won't play with newish friends, is taking giant leaps towards independence.
Last week, I was in the carpool line waiting to pick Bunny up from school when Wallie declared that she had to go to the bathroom. Really badly. The school bathroom was about 50 feet away from where I was parked, but around a slight corner so I couldn't see it. We're not supposed to leave our cars once in the carpool line so I couldn't take her. I explained that we'd be home soon, but she quickly tired of my explanations and cut me off. "I can go myself!" she squeaked.
Off she trotted to the girls' bathroom. Two, three, four minutes ticked by. "How long does it take to pee, flush, and wash hands," I asked myself. At the five minute mark, just as panic was starting to set in, Wallie's bright face came skipping around the corner. As she scrambled into the car she told me all about how she flushed the toilet without covering her ears and that her hands were clean. "Smell them!"
A month ago, she'd never have done that. I wouldn't have let her and I have to say, I don't think I will let her do it again, but still. I couldn't help but marvel at her new-found confidence.
Yesterday we were at the cafe where we like to have tea and sit outside. She accidentally knocked the table and some tea spilled. "I'll get some napkins," Wallie volunteered. I watched as she ducked into the busy cafe and this time ticked off the seconds until she returned. After about 30 seconds she still hadn't returned so I walked in to see where she was. I saw a line of about 7 people waiting to order their coffees and right smack in the middle of all the adults, patiently waiting for her turn at the counter, was Wallie. She turned and saw me and waved me over to her and that gesture seemed so...adult, that my heart leaped and shattered at the same time. My four-year-old isn't a baby anymore.
Wallie goes to kindergarten next year and I have to admit that I have been a little worried about how she'd handle the new situation. She is very attached to her preschool and her friends there and doesn't do well with the "newness" of anything. She will likely have Bunny's teacher and she is very familiar with the classroom so we have that in our favor, but still. Wallie has always been a particular kid, a mixture of extreme shyness and attachment and pointed assertiveness when things don't go her way.
We've been trying to expose her to new adventures and new friends. For example, one of the things she loves to do lately is go to the bathroom in a restaurant with Bunny, just the two of them. (Or at least they think it's just the two of them as I usually check the bathroom before they go in and watch the door until they are done.) This kind of experience is just the thing she needs to give her a little more independence and bring her out of her comfort zone.
So we continue on this path of independence with Wallie. We can now add "goes to the bathroom by herself" and "fetches napkins" to the short list of things she can do without an adult standing right there.
And so, they grow.