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Most people who know me would agree that
I’m borderline obsessive/compulsive. I use that term in the
cute way, as in “organizational freak” or “my
look at how well her spices are alphabetized” rather than in
the “I have to touch a doorknob five times before I can use
it” kind of way. The OCD tendencies I come by honestly in my
family – my grandmother frets when you don’t hand wash
a spoon the “right” way. And I’ve always
considered a little OCD to be a good thing in a mommy; Lord knows
you’re sunk without some method of organizing your life to
get through the multi-tasking days.

But I would never wish the real thing on anyone, much less my kids,
so I’m careful to never let my compulsions (like having to
count the stairs as I go down them. Always.) show in front of the
girls. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some signs in Maddie that at
the very least, she’s got a touch of the obsessive in

When she was first walking, Maddie would
only walk in one direction around the coffeetable. Clockwise. At
first I found it cute and thought it merely a manifestation of baby
development: most babies develop one side instinctively faster, and
will use the same leg to go up every stair, the same arm to reach
for something, etc. So as a health professional (and as an
experiment) I tried to get her to “even herself out”
and go the other way. She could do it just fine – but she
didn’t want to, and after a circle or so she’d insist
on turning around and running back in “her” direction.
A teensy bit worried, I pointed this out to Brian and asked if he
thought it might be a sign of obsessive compulsiveness.
Thoughtfully, he pondered a moment and said, “No, I think
it’s a sign she’s a year old and likes to run around
coffee tables. Your worrying about it, though, is definitely a

Ha ha.

So I thought nothing more about it (well, pretended to think
nothing more about it) but kept an eye out. And indeed,
Maddie’s totally normal and seems obsessed only with Elmo
(thanks again, Uncle Daniel). Every once in a while, though, a new
habit pops up and I think, “Is this being a kid or is it
being my kid?”

Right now, for instance, Maddie has a thing about walking only on
certain spots on her area rug. Her rug has a big border of flowers
and butterflies, and she likes to step from flower to butterfly to
flower and so on, and if you interrupt her she’ll turn around
and start over again. Weird? Or normal?

Here’s the biggest one, though: she can’t stand for
anything to be crooked. If she sees a stack of books, she will ask
me to straighten them. If I’m sitting aslant on the couch
she’ll try to straighten me, saying, “You’re
crooked, Mommy, fix it.” Even our doormat at our entry needs
to be lined up. I’m not saying she’s Baby Jane or Mommy
Dearest – it doesn’t ruin her day or dissolve her into
tears until it’s fixed - but she does notice and comment on
these things. The crooked thing is cute for a while, until
you’re straightening out the green beans on her plate and you
say, “This has got to stop,” even while your husband
stares accusingly at you as if you’ve made your child this
way on purpose.

Some of her obsessions are, I know, just being a kid. I understand
that her need to do everything “MYSELF!” is part
independence, part stalling tactic, and I’ve learned to never
pick her up and carry her somewhere in an effort to move things
faster, as this will only add to the time since she’ll have
to chastise me, walk back to the beginning, and do the whole thing
herself – at a sepulchral pace. Likewise with picking
something up for her – Heaven forbid you pick up Silky when
she wants to do it – or a myriad of other maddening but
normal toddler characteristics.

So I know she’s most likely normal and only seems
frustratingly precise to a harried, over-stressed, under-slept
Mommy. I’m sure that by the time she’s a teenager
she’ll be able to live quite comfortably with everything in
her room being “crooked” and will have no problem with
me picking things up for her.

For now, though, as I watch her organize her rock collection from
largest to smallest, a sick little part of me thinks with pride,
“That’s my girl!”


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