It’s good to be loved. But let me tell you, it’s not bad to be ignored.
So it is with L. The toddlers eat their breakfasts with the two-year-olds in the twos’ classroom, which is the first classroom inside the daycare wing. So each morning I walk the girls inside, stop in the very first doorway, open L’s backpack and find her yogurt and her milk, remove L’s jacket, stick her breakfast in her hands, give her a kiss on top of her head and that’s all the love she needs. Without looking back she toddles into the classroom, our ritual completed and her personal ritual begun. She slams her food down on the table. (Toddlers aren’t gentle.) She runs into her favorite teacher’s arms for a big kiss. And then she seeks out her friends, and my personal ritual commences, in which I watch her leaving me and asserting her stake in a world her size, filling my heart with a little package of sunshine before I go off to my ordinary workday.
Most morning it’s straight towards Grace, her partner in crime. Gaygee! she yells, and Gracie happily returns the favor of shouting a garbled pronunciation of L’s own name. They have invented a peculiar gang sign to flash at each other. They stand inches apart, crinkling their noses and smiling, and point at each other. They do this every morning when L first walks into the room, crinkling and pointing, repeating each other’s names and smiling.
When we walked in today Grace was seated in the farthest part of the room and in a stealth maneuver, a third toddler friend, V, interrupted the morning routine by getting to L first and putting her arms around her in actual physical contact. L was startled, but smiled as she tried to straighten up, as V had hugged her from above and behind. Grace noticed this rival’s move mid-run across the room, wavered for a minute, and decided the best way to declare her morning love for L was to pile on. So Grace hugged V from behind, startling V long enough for L to stand and swivel in her grasp. This brought L face-to-face with her Gracie, and so with V in the middle of their entanglement, the two began their regular nose-crinkling and name-calling. Then they tried to follow routine by pointing at each other but in the momentum of both bread slices of the V sandwich simultaneously letting go the best they succeeded at was in nearly poking each other in the eye, and in falling down across each other in a tangly toddler triad klutz pile. All three girls lay there, interwoven appendages strewn everywhere, and relentlessly giggled.
The thing is, what they lack in coordination they more than compensate for with cuteness.