A friend of mine tells me she loves her son but she loves her daughter in this other way, she says “I love her so much it’s like I wonder if we were together in a past life” and I don’t know what she means by together or what she means by love. I am not sure I can define my feelings for my daughter. If I had to guess what we were to each other in a past life, I would say she was probably my mother. The simple explanation of a past life should be kept simple.
I dreamed I was swimming with my daughter and my husband in a corral reef where otters and tropical fish used to live but it was now all garbage and rusted out ship hulls and sharp objects. I was crying. My husband asked me why I was crying and I told him I was crying because everything was extinct and I had hoped that our daughter would grow up in a beautiful world and that she would have children after he and I were dead so that we could come back and be together again as brother and sister. I told him that one life together just wasn’t enough.
When I was four weeks pregnant I thought it was important to realize I was 10% through with the entire process already. And at four and half months I thought how quickly I had come half way. When she is four and half in a few months I will be 25% through parenting if she stays with me until she is 18. Math can be so emotional. Some people don’t realize how crippling math can be.
I waste a lot of time on Facebook. And I waste a lot of time on work. I take too many small jobs. I say yes to everything. I don’t know why this is. I think something sounds interesting so I say yes to it, then when it is time to get out of it I can’t because I am committed. When I try not to be committed to things other things come along to commit me. I have commitment phobia and I’m a commitment addict. If someone commits to me I expect a solid commitment. My sister tried to break a commitment to me and I told her to fuck off. But only after she told me I was giving her a guilt trip and bullying her.
I often tell my daughter I will be there “in a minute” and then I do a lot of small things, like empty the dishwasher or mop the floor, and finally after she is busy playing by herself I sit down and start to sip a cup of tea and she comes to sit by me. Yesterday I asked her if she wanted hot chocolate. We were busy playing Apples to Apples, which is a game that makes zero sense to a four year old so instead of playing the real way we each lie down a card and I read them out loud. Some cards say things like Tom Hanks and Roe Versus Wade. I change them so that in each hand there are two choices and she gets to pick which one wins. So I turn Tom Hanks into Puppies and Roe versus Wade into Boats, she chooses puppies. Next time I say Hands versus Feet. She says “Hands.” But then looks at me concerned “Right?”
I got up to make the Hot Chocolate and while I was up I started chopping onions and garlic. The water boiled and I mixed it with the chocolate powder and some cold milk and left it on the counter to cool. I had a soup recipe book out. She was placing all the cards face down and making a castle on the table. She said “Come back here mama. You are playing with me.” I said “I’m making you hot cocoa, don’t you want hot cocoa?” She said “yes, but you are not doing that anymore you are doing something else.” she is on to me.
So I told her I was still making hot cocoa and then asked her to explain how hot cocoa is made and if she can prove that chopping onions isn’t part of making hot cocoa I’ll stop. I don’t know if my response bored her or if she just knows it will be a few minutes before I return but she ceased to question me. Someday I fear I will beg her to play with me the way she begs me to play now and all I will feel is crippling regret. But we have to eat dinner.
Every day I set her up with some art making activity. She has a table with markers and crayons and paint and paper and play doh and stamps and stamp pads. I even put a bag of those fuzzy covered wires on the table, pipe cleaners (I just had to google that description because I couldn’t remember what those things were) and she gives them to her dad every day and says “these are your work needles”. She worries if she finds them after he leaves for work “Oh no, dada forgot his work needles!”
On my way to google what fuzzy covered wires were called I glanced at an article titled “7 Things Coffee Does to your Body”. A friend of mine told me last week that she had quit coffee (cold turkey) along with most other things I eat daily, like dairy and gluten and that she had been feeling so much better. “I’m More alive and energized than ever.” she says. We’re at a bar stool over glasses of wine and she is wearing a beautiful grey cashmere dress and lacy brown tights with rain boots. She looks great. Every day since, I have contemplated this diet for myself. So I went back to the article about the 7 things hoping it might help build my case for quitting, but they are all positive. It did say that to get these seven benefits and rewards of coffee I have to stop adding cream.
The same friend also uses crest whitening strips. I thought her teeth were professionally cleaned, they sparkle brightly. She has been my friend since the 3rd grade. We used to do skip recess to stay in the classroom doing cartwheels. She has three kids and raises them by herself (for the most part, I mean he’s not dead just incapable and uninterested). Two of the kids drive and are almost done with high school already. I tell her she just needs to get through two more years then things will get easier. She nods but I see the math crippling her. I regret this stupid comment later.
Annelie tells me she wants to marry me. Some days she says she will marry me and Daddy too so we can all be married. Walking down the driveway a few days ago she said “Let’s never die. I don’t want to die and you don’t want to die. So let’s not. Okay mama?”
When she gives me that look during Apples to Apples about whether she should have chosen hands over feet, this one decision being the only one she questioned, I told her “It’s your opinion, whatever you say wins, there is no right or wrong.” For her there was no question that soft blanket was better than soft pillow, she chose bananas over oranges and trees over people. Puppies outrank boats and she’d rather ride a cloud than a whale. But this choice between hands and feet, she asked for guidance. And how should I know?
The truth is, most of the time I see that she is far more intelligent than me. Her sharp instincts about love and wonder and doing what feels right and never veering from her internal compass. She only eats what she likes and plays the games she enjoys or changes the game.
She doesn’t move toward fear or let fear move her. The other day at a hardware store I grabbed a ghoulish hallloween mask from a high shelf and put it on and turned to face her, she was saying “Mama, can I have…” which she says often in places like that and I said “can you have what?” she looked up at the mask with a witches warty nose and long gray hair and bloodshot eyes and old wrinkled skin and laughed, then she turned back to the shelf of candy and said “can I have these?” I said “no, honey” and she said “Okay, but next time, right?” which is what she always says.
When I play out my worst fears like what would happen if she died before me I tell myself that I will just board a plane and fly halfway across the world and join a peace corp effort where other people are suffering as much as I am. Then I realize that there can be no worse suffering and that I might kill myself and then I realize they have drugs to stop me from doing this. And then I realize that Annelie is too strong to ever kill herself and that I want to be like her. And then I wonder how any parent lives through it and then I stop thinking about it and do some laundry or sweep the floors.