A friend recently called and told me that her 2-year-old dropped her crayon the other day and said, “Oh Lord, Mommy!” I can’t decide if that’s better or worse than the fact that my little girl has recently taken to shaking her tail-feathers and singing, “Shake your booty! Shake your booo-ty!” Apparently she’s been spending a little too much time with her older cousins.

Like everything else in my life, this, of course, is no news to veteran moms. I understand that our little ones at one stage or another will begin to mimic whatever they hear around them, but, whew! it just takes your breath away when it happens, doesn’t it?

I guess I hadn’t, until lately, quite appreciated the haven I have lived in for two solid years. Up until now, between the fact that I am my daughter’s primary caregiver and the fact that she has no siblings, I’ve basically controlled every aspect of her life; to my great, great satisfaction. I don’t think I understood how much I enjoyed that level of control.

My sister-in-law, a seasoned mother of three, has been ribbing me about this control for years. “Sure,” she’ll say, “just try to keep her from eating candy. . . see how long that lasts!” Just the other day she chuckled as I wrung my hands over the fact that my little girl hadn’t had a bath in two days. “With the third kid, you’re feeling pret-ty good if she is bathed once a week. Blow the dust off and she’ll be fine.”

This is how it starts, then? What my father has come to call “the banana peel of life”? We keep ourselves blissfully ignorant for a short while, assuming we have things well in hand. But then we step on that banana peel, and off we go!

First, it’s going to school for a few hours without me; next it’ll be college. First, it’s saying “mama;” next it’s asking for the remote control to turn on CNN. At least that’s how my dad makes it sound. I think the idea is to appreciate each day, because a day turns into a year as quick as you can imagine.

Still, I can’t help trying to protect my little girl. That’s my job, right? To say no to Barney and yes to organic grapes. No to cookies for breakfast and yes to regular naps. No to hands in the toilet and yes to gallons of antibacterial soap.

I worry sometimes that my daughter will not have enough fun in her life because her mother can be just a wee-bit rule-oriented. I’ve found that I even choose my mommy-friends by this same token: your daughter goes to bed at 7 p.m. too, even though everyone laughs at you? Call me, anytime, friend!

So I guess it’s good to have older friends and cousins balance out the rules. Other kids combined with my daughter’s own zest for life will keep her sphere of influence broader than myself. She really is so interested, so fun loving, so light hearted. Her smile and laughter help me to relax when I would otherwise schedule and program. And I guess that’s her job, to bring mommy down from the ledge.