Little kids hit a very interesting stage at about two and a half to three years old. They become very independent, sometimes in the most maddening ways. I have a three-year-old who makes frequent use of the words “I can do it myself”. So we find ourselves in the library, she pushes the baby stroller at about six feet per hour, very proud of herself, very determined and a very loud screamer if I offer to “help”.

I know that this is a very important stage of her development. That when she wants to “help” wash the dishes it is with a most sincere desire to do like Mommy. Some days I get irritated by her fuzzy head up against my hot wet forearm, her tendency to empty the glass onto the floor, her protests when she gets drips in her hair because she has wedged herself between the faucet and the dish drainer. “Be careful MOMMY, yer gittin me ALL WET!” Then she makes her lips all pouchy and sneers at me. But she mainly wants to see the things that I usually miss. She wants to see the colors morphing around on the suds, to make squeaks on a hot plate, to splash around and fill and empty the same cup six hundred and forty seven times. Some days I take my cues from her and bask in the tactile splendor of wet water and dry towels and slippery soap. Then, I too inhale deeply the smell of lemony clean goodness. And in those moments she will look up, offer me her dimpled, self-satisfied grin and proudly proclaim, “We’re doin’ da dishes.”

Now this independent pride has found it’s way into dressing. The other day I found myself waiting, keys in hand, impatient because I just wanted to get out of the house, and she sat with her shoes, trying to jam one onto the wrong foot.

“Other foot honey.”

She looked at me and hovered the shoe close to the other foot, then decided I was wrong.

“No, really honey, that shoe goes on THIS foot.” I tapped her on the knee.

She gave me a look I have never seen from her, sort of wary. “That is my KNEE Mom. It is not a foot.”

I chuckled, “Yeah, I know. I mean you need to put the shoe on that foot, the one under that knee.”

I waited. She picked up the other shoe and started putting that one on the wrong foot.

“No sweetie. Your shoes go on the OTHER feet.”

And then she crossed her arms over her chest and took a deep breath. Her words were carefully measured. “I don’t HAVE any other FEET.”

And then I laughed myself right out of the chair. I forget why it was that I was in such a big hurry in the first place. That’s what little kids do. They make us stop and be charmed.