Over the weekend I was watching 2.5 year old Clara while her parents went out to dinner. She is still working on the use of pronouns; I, you, mine, yours. She has it down pretty well, but there are still a lot of third person references, "Clara do it!" or occasional mix-ups in usage. It is interesting to watch her language development from this distance. As someone who sees her maybe a few times a month, it is easier for me to see the leaps in her skills, to be astounded by each new step. And those strides in language come hand in hand with a growing sense of identity, of personal control and purpose.
We were playing a little game of hide and seek. I was sitting on an ottoman in the middle of the room and she would stand behind me. "Where's Clara?" she would ask. I would look high and low, "Is Clara down here? Is she up on the ceiling?" As I pretended to search the room, looking around from my perch, she would jump out and with arms wide proclaim, "Here I am!" If I continued to search, she would become more insistent, "Here I am! Here I am!" until I, too, threw my arms wide and exclaimed, "Oh, there's Clara. There she is!" She would fall into my arms, giggle with delight, look up, and ask, "Do it again?" Back behind me she would hide and I searched again for the elusive Clara.
"Here I am." What a strong sentence. Look at me, see me, know that I exist. But also, here I am. I am a person, an individual. I can control where I am, what I do, and how I think. I can be here, I can be there. But right now, I am standing here, arms wide open, and I want you to see me in all my two year old glory. I want you to find me. Two year olds state the obvious. Here I am. I want to be seen, in fact, I demand to be seen. There is no inhibition in their declaration, no doubt that they are worthy of being recognized. They haven’t yet begun to worry that asking to be seen might bring disappointment or rejection. Well-loved two year olds expect that they will be seen, that we all want to see them.
“Here I am.” A powerful statement of identity. Simple, direct, unadorned. I might have just dumped out the whole toy box, spilled my milk on the sofa, and pinched my baby brother. But, here I am, see me now, love me. See me for what I am, for who I am. I make mistakes, yet I am perfect. I am here with my hair falling into my eyes, my buttons undone, my nails dirty. This is me, this is who I am. Here I am, my arms are open, my belly peeking out, I’m waiting for you.
"Here I am." An offer. I'm not here only as me, as an individual asking to be seen, but wanting to find you, too. I want to be here for you. I am available, just look my way. I will give you things, hugs and giggly kisses. I will lift your spirits. I will fall into your arms again and again. I will love you, too.