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"I Am," She Cried

Cora’s vocabulary has been growing
leaps and bounds the past month or so. True, you can only
understand her if you’re around her pretty regularly, but
those few of us in her daily orbit can see a clear effort on her
part to learn the language and make herself understood.
“Yogurt,” “cereal,” “snack,”
“milk,” “finished,” “outside,”
“socks,” “shoes,” “stroller”,
and “Elmo” are amongst her favorite words – and
it should come as no surprise, by the way, that her two favorite
things to do are eat (most notably breakfast) and play outside.

But there’s one word she learned about a week ago
that’s touched all of us – “Cora.”

I think I first heard Cora say it about
ten days ago: we were snuggled in her chair, rocking together, Cora
smiling contentedly up at me. We were having one of those great
post-nap snuggles, all quiet and cozy with no agenda except some
together time. Cora was lazily playing with my hair when she softly
reached up, touched my face, and said, “Mama.”
She’s said mama a lot, of course – one of her first
words and one of the most oft-repeated ones in her vocabulary (as
in, “MA! Get in here and give me something!”) So Cora
will regularly pat me and say, “Mama,” as if reassuring
herself that Mama is there.

“Mama,” I agreed, smiling at Cora. And then Cora patted
her chest and said, “Cora!”

“That’s right!” I smiled at her,
“You’re Cora! Mama” – and here I pointed at
myself – “and Cora” – pointing at her.
“Cora,” she said once more, happily, before settling
back into a reverie.

Since then we’ve all noticed Cora’s use of the word,
and while I was surprised at first to realize that she’d only
just now gotten around to saying the word when she hears it all the
time, after thinking about it I understood it made sense. You see,
Cora’s just now figuring out that she’s separate from
everything else; she’s been in that “sure, I’ll
share – all this stuff is just here for everyone to play
with!” mode, not realizing she had rights, or that possession
exists. Of course, she’s gone through the crying and
screaming when Maddie’s taken a toy away from her, but
that’s been because she was playing, not because she thought
she had some inherent right to the thing. Do you get the

Ever since Cora started saying her name, she’s been working
on the possessive thing a lot. She and I have gone on a couple
picnics recently just the two of us, and as I unwrapped my sandwich
in its green wrap-n-mat Cora’s pointed at it and said,
“Mama’s!” This is followed, of course by
“Cora’s!” as I open the red-and-white mat for
her. She’d spend the rest of the meal repeating this,
pointing to first my sandwich then hers and labeling the
appropriate owners.

At first I found this cute, but then I realized the whole
“learning the possessive concept” thing and became less
enthusiastic about it. The last time we had a picnic we both had a
little Tupperware of orange slices, and I’d eaten all mine
and seen Cora wasn’t finishing hers. “Cora, may I have
one of your slices please?” I asked politely.
“Nope,” she answered, not even looking up. “It
looks as if you’re not going to eat all of them,” I
pressed, “and so perhaps you could share.”

Cora looked at me, picked up the orange bowl, crammed every slice
in her mouth, chewed twice, then spit the slices back into the
bowl. “Cora’s,” she said definitively, very
neatly staking her claim and effectively putting an end to the

I fear this will open a whole new level to the play dynamic between
the two girls, and half of me would like to hide for the next few
months and cowardly let them fight it out themselves. While I
rejoice in seeing her come into a sense of self, a realization that
she exists beyond anyone else, it’s darn inconvenient when
trying to get things done. Maddie’s not helping, either,
though she doesn’t know it – just last night she taught
Cora the word “Mine.”

“Cora, can you say ‘mine’?” Maddie asked as
they sat side-by-side eating snacks. Cora stared at her.
“Cora, is this your snack?” Maddie pressed, ready to
teach. Cora snatched her bowl of veggie booty back, saying,
“Cora’s!” “That’s right, that’s
yours, Cora! Can you say, ‘mine’?”

“Cora’s! Mine!” Cora shouted.

“Very good! That’s right!” Maddie said.

“Mine, mine, mine, mine!” Cora gleefully exclaimed.

Thanks, Maddie. Fasten your seatbelt, kiddo, because I have a
feeling sharing time is over.


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