This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. She’s three years old now, and she’s going to do this all by herself. She’s going to put her leotard on all by herself. There will be tears, anxious laughter, screams, grunts, and frustration. There may be a little bit of sobbing on the floor. But she’s going to do it. She’s going to wipe her own butt. Poop will get everywhere, including on the seat and on her pants as she slides off the toilet seat, but dammit, she’s going to wipe her own butt. She’s going to climb this jagged rock. Her nervous parents will be standing nearby, but she’s not going to ask them for help. This rock hurts her little hands and knees, but fuck it all, she’s going to climb it until the top. Then, she’s going to come back down the jagged rock. She’s going to scream as loud as she can to see how it feels and to examine the reaction of the people who hear her. She’s going to apologize to her brother. She hurt him because she squeezed him so hard that he started to cry. She did it out of equal parts fierce love and intense jealousy. But she’s going to make it right, so after a good, healthy cry, she’s going to come back and show her mama and papa that she can hug her brother gently, kiss him with snot and tears all over her face, and tell him, “I love you, baby brudder. I love you so much and you love me and we’re happy, okay?” She’s going to carry her bathing suit around with her at the zoo. Just because, dammit. She’s going to mix the eggs herself. They’re going to fly in all directions because “mix gently” doesn’t make any sense to her. She’s going to eat this cookie right now, even though it just came out of the oven. She’s going to blow on it and cry and burn her mouth a little bit, but she’s going to eat this cookie because she helped make it and she wants it now. She’s going to set the rules for her own body. Someone will ask her if they can have a hug, and she’s going to say no. If they try to hug her, she’s going to repeat her assertion. Someone will try to tickle her, and she’ll say, “Don’t tickle me.” She’s going to read this book all by herself. She’s heard it so many times that she knows almost all of the lines by heart and has every detail of every drawing memorized. She may be holding the book upside down and may skip some pages, but by golly, she’s going to read this book all by herself. She’s going to click herself into her car seat. The top part isn’t too hard, but the bottom part is tough and it’s too tight and it hurts, but she doesn’t want help because she is gonna do it. She’s going to put on her full-body pajamas all by herself after the bath, even though – as the song we wrote together goes – “it’s tricky when you’re sticky.” She’s going to entice a complete stranger at the farmer’s market into playing a game with her. She’s going to explain the rules (“You say don’t eat that burrito and then I eat the burrito and you say I’m so mad about that! Okay?”) and the stranger is confused but kindly and does his best. She’s going to be herself, completely, at all times. She will start experimenting with different voices and words and personas, often hilarious and touching, and not always kind or “appropriate.” But it will still be her being her. She’s going to sing and dance, anytime, anywhere. She’s going to insert herself into the conversation even though she doesn’t know what it’s about. She’ll make up new words if she has to. She’s going to pet her dog even though her dog is wary of her caresses. She will learn how to be nice and gentle to this sweet creature, even if the pup is an easy target when she’s frustrated. She will love her dog. She’s three, and she’s going to do this all by herself, even if it hurts a little or makes her feel uncomfortable or scares her. Sometimes, when she really needs help, she’s going to ask for it. And we’re going to give it to her.