Nora had barely scrambled into the car at pickup before she got the words out. Her backpack banged against the back of her knees as she climbed into her car seat.

“Do you have a surprise for me?”

She asks me this every day. Some days I have a small surprise waiting, like jelly beans; other times, hearing we are going to Stew Leonard’s (the “Cow’s House”) is enough to please her. Then there are the days when I have to tell her I have nothing for her and we are headed straight home – and I always explain that surprises aren’t special if you expect them and get them all the time. But today I did have a surprise.

“I do,” I said. “Nana and papa are coming!” As the words left my mouth I knew I had hit a home run.

“Ohhhhhhh,” she said, sounding fretful.

Huh? Since when was this not the best news ever? Honestly I can’t win. Fact: no one ever can win, with a preschooler.

“But I’m going to miss you,” she whined, still sounding concerned.

Awwww. Maybe I don’t play second fiddle to her grandparents all the time.

“But…” she continued, looking thoughtful for a moment. “When I see you again you’ll smell so good!” Her face brightened, having found her own silver lining in an odd but adorable observation only a four year old can get away with, and I could hear the love in her voice.

My heart melted just a little bit more and grew a little bit bigger, and as I drove us home from school I reached back to where she was buckled into her car seat and stroked her leg for a moment.

A moment later she swatted my hand away, annoyed. “That’s enough mom,” she growled.

Oh, to be four, and fickle, and amazing.

Photo credit C.Allard

Photo credit C.Allard