Tonight we had our Saturday night game of Candyland. I told her we would put the baby to bed early and play. She decided to get the ball rolling. Okay Allie, it’s story-time. She began reading her a story, stopped halfway through. Okay, Allie, its bedtime. Would you like your bottle? She began trying to force feed her. I took over, then sent her in my bedroom to set up the board.
After the baby was asleep, I came into the room and there she was, waiting on the bed, the pieces out, the cards stacked perfectly. Two plastic ginger bread men at the starting point, facing forward, the other two lined up to “watch.” Nothing a hair out of place, just how she likes it. She has always seen details that I can’t; we are different that way. I jump my man to two oranges, and set him down facing the “wrong way.” I would never notice. I see the piece as a red blur; she sees it as a face and a combination of many details that are lost to me. This is where we diverge along the strange shared path of mother/daughter. It’s a crazy thing, being so different and so the same. I often wonder while I’m with her what I’m doing that she will be reminiscing about painfully to a shrink in twenty years. My mother always made me feel guilty. She always showed me her exhaustion, her brink of losing patience, I held on to her feelings and felt responsible for them, even at the age of four. Something like that. Some shit I myself poured out in a therapists chair for years, unable to see my mother through the lens of anything else but my mother; unable to see her as a human that had to deal with something as difficult as raising me.
Tonight though, looking at my daughter in her Peppa Pig pajama top and underwear, her ringlet curls that she keeps pulling away from her face, suddenly my complacency jumps out of the shadows. I see this four year old moving figurine of cuteness, imperfect perfection, wobbly and beautiful and unconcerned with how the world sees her, and I understand so fully and piercingly that this is not forever. That this caricature will be lost one day in the not so distant future, and it will be something I lay in bed and long for. When she spends hours in her room and I don’t hear Mommy every five seconds or…ever. Because in the midst of laundry and macaroni and cheese pots and faces covered in dry yogurt and ‘Will you wipe me?’ and wars to put on socks and take off shoes, you forget that this little entity is not permanent and is vanishing with every single sweaty bedtime story and sigh of relief goodnight.
This little girl is leaving me. She is not forever. She is on her way out.
This little girl is leaving me. She is not forever. She is on her way out. I may not be able to see the face of the red gingerbread man piece, but suddenly I am able to see this, and the truth of it, of the omnipotence of time. Its inconsiderate nature, it’s apathy. And because I am an open book, or maybe I use my daughter as an emotional dumping ground(as she may tell a shrink someday) I ask her: What happens if you get bigger, and I want you to be small again? What should I do? She looks at me trying to think of a solution. She can’t. She crawls from the game to my lap and smothers me in a hug- the most affection she has given me all day. Don’t let me leave you, when I get bigger, she tells me. Don’t let me move away, into my own house. I hug her back. I tell her she can stay in her bedroom as long as she’d like to. Until I’m as old like my nana? she asks. I tell her of course. I will never make her leave. Even though, looking at the most independent four-year-old I know, I know I will never have to.
I make her promise she will be my best friend, when this time comes- when the pencil marks have crept all the way up her closet door.
I make her promise she will be my best friend, when this time comes- when the pencil marks have crept all the way up her closet door.That day when I will be wishing she picks the purple and pink peppermint card that sends her all the way back to the beginning of time.
I am smiling, but I am begging her- I am desperate- even though she doesn’t know it. She agrees. I know the odds are this is a promise she wont be able to keep, but right now- over Candyland- she means it.
And that’s something. That’s enough.