by Dana Inouye | Jun 7, 2017 | Blog
Two is a sweet age.
I summon up the image of my two year old meticulously placing his toy cars, one by one, in a single-file line, arranging and rearranging, with manic precision. I recollect sitting and watching him, a wave of peaceful contentment washing over me.
Then one fine day, that two year old turned three. And those treasured cars were no longer an image of industrious exactitude. No, my toddler -turned -preschooler no longer placed his cars; he threw them. Flung them far and wide.
Yes this is about Alexander’s toy cars. But it is about a lot more: because he threw a lot more than just those cars. A casual walk by a countertop would spawn an offhanded swipe of any and every object that unswervingly nestled there.
“Shmok”, I mumble. [My Hebrew use of the word is not the same as the English rendering ‘schmuk’; it translates, more accurately, to ‘Asshole’. Hebrew, paradoxically, keeps me muted.]
“YOU shmok”, my endearing three year old pipes back, a smirk circling his lips. (They certainly are sponges, those critters).
“No you shmok”
“No you shmok”
and so forth.
Yes. It’s as it sounds. Forty-something woman having a full-on back-and-forth spat with three year old boy.
When faced with the repeated task of picking shit up, my capacity for creative and original rejoin, is ostensibly, diminished. Routine and repetition obscure wit and innovation.
But let’s get back to the cars. Because aligned or scattered, they are treasured.
It’s now evening. I carefully — masterfully — take off Alexander’s pants by the bathroom. It is a technique I have perfected –holding the pockets as I lower the pants to ensure the cars that are crammed in them, don’t tumble out. Once the pants are off, he will take them out of the pockets, revealing one car after another after another, a staggering sleight of hand.
Minutes later, he is bathed and wrapped in a towel. Older kids are watching TV. Baby is contentedly meddling with a box of (child-proof!) vitamins on the carpet. The universe has afforded me a window, a magical porthole; I only have to get the delectable three year old to sleep in this opening and the rest will take care of itself. Easy. Smooth. Sweet.
I fetch the boy’s pajamas.
“No, not these pants, the other pants.”
“What other pants?” I feel my blood pressure begin to climb and quickly move into his dresser. Let’s do this. Other pants. OK. Quick. Clock is ticking.
“How about these? You want the striped ones or the ones with the trucks?
“No I need pocket pants!”
Of course you do: I run back to the dresser.
“OK, check these out, these are perfect pocket pants, look how cool these pockets are”.
“No I want regular pocket pants!” His voice is forceful, definitive.
OK. I take out the pants I was saving for the morning.
“No no the ones… you know, the ones I… like, um… the ones I was…” By now his voice has grown shaky beneath his quivering lips. His eyes are moist and his movement is tremulous. He is weary of being misunderstood and is on the verge of becoming softly undone. Explosive tantrums are for earlier hours; this is a raw and tender implosion.
Oh you mean the ones you were wearing? The dirty ones, the ones I already threw in the laundry.
I lay with him on the mattress by our bed. He is wearing the scoured pants that held all his enchanted cars earlier, and churning out his delectable mix of Hebrish: “if I sleep kol layla (all night) on the mizron (mattress), I get a pras (prize).” Right, I assure him, wordlessly trying to figure out when I’ll manage to squeeze a trip to the dollar store the next day. The collection of cars that he must contain in his pockets is expanding beyond capacity as we negotiate the reward system that is designed to reclaim our bed.
Curled up next to him, I close my eyes, part modeling, part rebuffing: This mom has closed shop. His weary eyes flutter. Moments later he pipes up: “I actually love this mom,” a variation on the more common, “ I’m going to find a new mom” catchphrase acquired from sassy older sis. “This mom?” I repeat. Even the most stalwart supermom needs to be bolstered and cajoled. I smile and watch his eyes close. And I rush out. Rushing is my modus vivendi.
Gotta get to the others, older two who have been on duty, entertaining baby. They need to get to bed too.
Let’s just say it isn’t easy, it isn’t smooth, it’s bittersweet, but after a while all are asleep and I stumble into bed.
I don’t know what godforsaken time it is, but I know two things for certain: my husband is fast asleep and there is no way in hell I can ever sleep what with the clang and clatter of cars in our bed. A spongy body sits up, collects the tumbling cars, loads them back in his pockets, where’s the blue one? No the other blue one. (I hand him the pink one and he is assuaged). Rinse. Repeat. All. Bloody. Night. Long.
At one point the cars jangle again but this time there is less wiggling and repositioning. There is a static energy that is at odds with the dynamic movement of sleep. I open half an eye and clumsily press the home button on my phone. 6:26 am. The point of no return: he will not go back to sleep.
I turn to my husband and recount the nightly escapades. Silence. Only husbands — make that fathers — have this talent for sleeping through anything and everything. I know later he will ask me, ingenuously: “where did Alexander sleep?”
Meanwhile, the boy is tugging at my arm demanding his breakfast. My dogged attempt to drag my ass outta bed is motivated by one marvelous thought: I can get him to daycare and be back home by 8 am. The race is on.
Because mom truth number two hundred and thirteen: few sentiments compare to the warm loving one that washes over you when you wave goodbye to your kids and watch them run off to school. “I actually love this boy” my heart surges, as I drive away.
But bedtime is a long way from those prized moments post- drop off. A lot can happen in between.
On one particular and commonplace night, I am especially and regularly bushed. Feeling done with the whole lot of them. And when Alexander tests me at bedtime, I lose it: I fume, I seethe, I flare.
It feels surprisingly good, and then unsurprisingly bad. As my fierce pulsations dwindle to a shuddering tremor, the three year old by my side asks timidly, benevolently, “Mama are you ok?” His question strikes me, arrests me; no, are YOU ok? You are the one who has suffered my wrath. With his simple expression of concern, he has – I realize — perceived a staggering truth: that oftentimes, the perpetrator, even as she is inflicting pain on her victim, is herself driven by pain, that her howls are appeals for love and support.
I cup his face and feel as if I am holding his heart in my hands, bolstered by its vibrations. “Yes, I’m ok. I’m sorry I got mad. I’m sorry I yelled.”
I lie down next to him and extend an arm, wrapping it around him furtively, like a conjurer whose secrets breathe in the still of the night. “This is my favorite snuggle”, he says.
Me too. Tonight I am not rushing. I draw in my breath and close my eyes. “I love you”, he utters, echoing my nightly refrain.
And just like that, in one pithy moment, the day’s exasperating episodes crumple and a mother’s fortitude is restored.
There is immense comfort in the feeling of containing, holding, enclosing something that is dear to you. Alexander’s pocket pants contain his cars. My circling arms, forming an imaginary container, enclose him: we can ease up in our mutual containment, both cherishing our prized possessions.
by Dana Inouye | Aug 6, 2016 | Blog
“When’s the best time to have kids?”
“When they’re asleep!” someone once quipped.
The tongue in cheek here is not lost on young parents.
The daily din and hubbub with little ones is constant and we parents need a
break as much as they do.
there is something deeper in that hushed pause, something transcendent even, something deeply poetic —
the love that trickles in but
the love that spills
is not looking
is not finding or seeking
time is now
by Dana Inouye | Jun 21, 2016 | Blog
you’re the sister and I’m the mommy, pretend I’m the dog, pretend my name is Flora,
frolicks and revels in a world of pretend. As she plays “school” with her popsicle
sticks, I marvel at the fluidity with which she weaves in and out of an
assortment of characters.
her pretend play she is constantly taking on different roles, assuming
different selves. Intuitively, she internalizes the idea that the ‘self’ is
ever shifting, that it is but a mere snapshot of us in a given moment. Through her play,
Liliana’s ‘self’ is multifaceted; it is shaped by interactions. The vastly
different characters that she assumes, I realize, are not outside of her but
she plays pretend, Liliana is not stuck in being, but is always on the brink of
Look up ‘pretend’ in the dictionary and you will encounter the terms ‘make-believe’, or ‘making “as if”’. There is something delightful and
expansive in this idea of making “as if”. ‘If’
denotes a condition that spawns potential. When we make “as if” we are opening up a space that
encompasses and contains potential.
We rarely know where the bumbling path of “as if” will take us; but we
must brace ourselves for the ride. Because it WILL take us places. Funny
places, sobering places, earnest places, startling places: all of them, places
of discovery. Playing “as if” is very simply, a form of exploration. And the
streams of exploration feed into the sea of discovery.
Sebastian, a little older and more equable, sits on
the corner stool at the kitchen table and works on his math homework. He talks
through it aloud, including me in the problem solving process. I nod, throw in some
hmms for good measure, and let my mind wander to a different array of problems
that need solving (math was never my strong suit) – what are we doing for
dinner, when do I have to nurse Sophie again, how are we going to negotiate the
three pick-ups in three different locations tomorrow afternoon —
Sebastian walks me through his problem solving process
and I nod perfunctorily. I’m glad he’s getting it because I sure as hell ain’t.
Only moments later, he says “no that can’t be it,” and I let out a regretful “hmmm”
and purse my lips in a diffident gesture of helplessness. He goes on to
elucidate why that can’t be it and my perfunctory nods make a comeback.
“That’s why I love math”, he exclaims, “Because you
have to keep trying over and over until you get it.”
His comment washes over me at first. And then jars me
into awareness: WAIT WHAT??
WOW! If it were I, I’d be like — after the first
failed attempt — “fuck this shit, I suck at this, this is the stupidest suck that
ever did suck, I give up.”
Psychologist Carol Dweck talks about the fixed vs.
growth mindset. According to Dweck, we can be placed on a continuum based on
our implicit views on ability; on one end lie those of us who believe our
success is based on innate ability (“fixed”), and on the other, those who believe
that success is a result of dogged persistent trial and error (“growth”).
Like his sister, Sebastian takes on different roles in
solving a problem; he “plays” with different scenarios. He too is not stuck in
being, but teeters on the verge of becoming.
I watch my children play to learn, I realize that I need to learn to play, that
I need to un-“fix” and “grow” my mindset. I pretend I’m the sister and she’s
the mommy and I instantly get “schooled”:
I need your phone
Because I’m the Mommy.
wince, smile, accede, and lean further in: to a place where now, my daughter,
experiences a sense of command, and I, a sense of vulnerability. Our “as-if”
play opens a draft of delicate awareness.
such as Confucius, advocated living “as if”. Sociologists Puett and Gross-Loh
are reaffirming this ancient view, claiming that “by engaging in as-if rituals
– which are the very opposite of the sincere, authentic approach to ourselves –
we will develop into better human beings.” (Stop
trying to ‘find yourself’, The Guardian, May 8, 2016)
end of the day, I think, I’ve learned something. But the end of the day is not
Every parent will tell you
that kids are wizards when it comes to timing; that that anticipated and dreaded
stretch we call “bed-time” which punctuates a long weary day is the muddied
place where children “wake-up”. That this, the point at which you, dear
parents, are longing for peace and aching for repose, a glass of wine, a pint
of ice cream, a mind-numbing sitcom on Netflix, for collapse on any level
surface, this — is when those wonder-filled creatures take it upon themselves
to pull you in, to stretch your day, to curtail your night, to ponder life’s mystifying
Sebastian: “Why are there
still so many bad people? Why do people want to be bad?”
Liliana: “How did the
first person get here if they weren’t in their mommy’s tummy?”
Who the hell has the mommy script? I just want to go the fuck to sleep.
But I take a deep breath. And I begin – to pretend.
pretend like I know the answer. Not pretend like there is a singular answer.
But making “as if”. This game of pretend, like a child’s pretend play, is not
about deception, not about laying claim to, not about phoniness, but about
imagination, about make-believe, about drawing forth a wellspring of
possibility. Parenting is of course, a timeless game of improvisation.
The empowering thing, I realize, is this: I hold the
reins; I drive the agenda.
The response to the question about bad people ends up
winding and turning – becoming — a discussion on the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam (the injunction to repair
the world), compassion, and how little things measure up. How inviting one
person to play with you can save and change that person’s life. Cue in another
Jewish proverb: if you’ve saved one life, you’ve saved the world.
Another response – on evolution and God – meanders,
shifts, and becomes:
“Was your Safta (grandma) a monkey?”
“So was God born before the monkeys?”
The thing about parenting is that you always get a
“do-over”, a second chance, and a third, and fourth, and fifth – to revise the
answer, to apologize, to breathe before you speak, to make “as if”.
“As if”, in its fluidity, allows us not only to
respond, but also to question. For As If
is closely connected to What If. What if I were _____? Well, let’s make “as if”. There is a
generative relationship between questioning and learning, between playing and discovering.
In playing “family”, I take on the role of sister, of
dog, of baby. And I watch my children take on the roles of brother, of father,
of grandmother. As the boundaries become fluid, a rarefied reflection surfaces.
I glean their version of familial roles and discern both the apparent and the
suggestive: the What Is and the What If.
We break from
who we are when we note the not-so-good patterns we’ve fallen into and then
actively work to shift them (i.e. I should probably be less attached to my
phone) – “as if” we were different people
in that moment. In drawing on different sides of ourselves, we come
back slightly changed.
(Puett and Gross-Loh, The Guardian, Stop trying to ‘find yourself’, May 8,
In un-“fixing” myself, I am able
to allow for “growth”.
The thing about the family circus, with its assortment
of characters, is that you’re a part of something that’s greater than the sum
of its parts. In playing “family”, I expand my sense of family.
So does Liliana. Her illustration of her “awsome”
family delineates all six of us (named). Plus a dog (un-named)!
The dog, for the time being, will remain “as if.”
by Dana Inouye | Feb 25, 2014 | Blog
“Anything else?” my obstetrician asks at my two-week post-partum
visit, after I casually mention the usual maternal ailments: sleep-deprivation,
sleep deprivation. Sleep. Deprivation.
The soft crinkles around his eyes deepen as his question
dangles, patiently, charitably. Here I was getting attention, not giving it,
and I wanted desperately to cling to this flash of unchecked vulnerability, to the specter of speaking, and being heard, with no interruptions. Of course
there is more. There is always more.
“Um… well: I can’t stand my five-year old daughter”, I sheepishly
admit, calling to mind the flames that she fans:
“Ooooooohhhh you so cute babes!” she bounces (by my side)
and pounces (on baby). “Ooohh he has such a cute butt ah koochy koochy koochy”.
You have a cute butt. “Oh booty-butt booty butt booty-butt,” she chants
spiritedly, delivering light rhythmic smacks to baby’s behind. All this while I
am trying to nurse the sweet cherub.
My grandmother, in a Hebrew that is tenaciously native and
reflexively displaced, would have characterized her great-granddaughter’s impassioned
style as ’בכל לבבשך’, a superb phrase that is loosely translated as “with ALL your heart,
with your entire being”. In Liliana’s case, it is with all [her] body. And volume.
And grit. And guts.
This girl loves life; she takes it by the horns. Her zest,
her spunk, her energy, her belly laugh are qualities I have long prized. But the
nature of her “bigger than life” temperament summarily transforms an embrace to
a smother, a pat to a thump. Meanwhile, my “bigger than life” fatigue teeters
on the verge of transforming a gentle plea into a spirited kick in her oh so cute
Liliana is not the only one who lets her emotions rule, who
needs to be on stage, front and center; it’s not easy living with a mini-me.
[Her older brother would rather be behind the scenes; or in
the orchestra pit, with his dad. His mellow disposition jives elegantly with my
emotionally wrought one. And his sweet awkwardness with baby is nothing short
When I lose it and roar at her to go away, she walks off grumbling
Oh yeah. There’s that too: my kids curse. They overheard me
saying “these fucking kids are driving me crazy” on the phone one time, when I
was “single momming” it while simultaneously completing an intensive teacher
education study program. So now, there’s this.
I detect the impish smile on her face and try to wipe the
smirk off of mine (her usage of the punctuating adjective is after all, on
point) and tell her, sternly, that that language is inappropriate. She then
affects a wounded pout and moans: “it’s all because of you”. I bite my tongue
and attempt a deep breath, knowing that the inevitable – the “remember what I
said?” cry is imminent. Liliana’s arsenal of cries is handily designed. And it
drives me fucking mad.
[Meanwhile, Sebastian’s cries over spilled milk or a
misplaced rubber band bracelet please me, somewhere deep inside; the pleasure principle,
I suppose, has something to do with gender-bending those stereotypes, with
raising and cultivating sensitive, emotionally literate boys. I shrug off
the speck of “reverse genderism” that drifts by and plow on, guilty pleasure
retained, in my decided social betterment.]
“Remember what I said??” No collective restructuring here.
My daughter’s “remember what I said?” wail accompanies a charade
of tears and posits but one antidote: a big strapping hug. The kind that
requires mobility and free open arms: luxuries I rarely possess these days.
Still, I lay the baby down and walk over to her, arms
outstretched. My initial annoyance at being displaced is assuaged as I feel her
taut body soften in my arms. I linger a little, inhaling her warmth and
alleviating my guilt for wanting to thwack her only moments earlier.
The value of a hug is something I am acutely sensitive to. I long for
it dreadfully as I sit nursing, wedged, repeatedly, in the same corner
of the couch, feeling blessed and stuck at once. But when my dear husband walks
in the door, the kids beat me to it. “ABA ABA ABA”, their frenzied yells
explode and pierce the air as their buoyant steps dash across the floor. I have
no chance. I affect a faint smile. On the inside, a tantrum is bubbling,
howling: “REMEMBER WHAT I SAID?”
Kids instinctively know that feelings must be expressed;
they must be let out; they must be heard. But what they boast in intuition,
they lack in delicacy. Inner tantrums need to be translated into outer words;
in order to be understood and accepted, their expression must be tempered. Yet
we big people, trained in the path of mitigation, often temper our temper, to
the point of bottling it in. Neither
the tempestuous nor the temperate paths are altogether effective.
How do we navigate being heard and getting what we want, at
any age? Are we to be direct or delicate? Arouse emotion or appeal to reason? There
is a subtle line between letting out and holding in. Or holding out and letting
in. It’s hardly linear. Oftentimes, it’s as much about giving and believing
than it is about asking and wanting. Like pieces of a mobile, we are perched:
hovering on the brink of motion, pining to sway to the music. The thread that
connects us floats lightly. You move one piece and the assembled pieces, are in
turn, set in motion.
On one of Lance’s orchestra rehearsal evenings – an ill fated
Tuesday or Thursday — I routinely braced myself for the looming bedtime frenzy.
Baby was awake and fussy, and kids were bouncing off the walls. I stammered
something about needing to go take care of baby, and Liliana suggested that I
take him with me to her bed. Visions of bed acrobatics, dramatic tears, and “booty
butt” slapping swirled in my head. But I released my breath and slowly climbed,
babe in arms, into her bed. I could feel my breath shortening as I let out the
typical bedtime commands: Head. On. Pillow. Now. After some shifting and
bounding, she moved her pillow to my end of the bed, and there, leaning against
the big yellow pouf, I sat, one hand stroking her hair, one cradling baby,
focusing desperately on my exhale. Moments later, Liliana turned to me with a
glimmer in her eye and whispered: “best night ever”. We hadn’t been doing
anything out of the ordinary, just sitting there: In the dark, in close
contact. I smiled and moved my hand to stroke her cheek.
Mere moments later her narrowing almond eyes flickered as her belly expanded, making way for the kind of laugh that swells and
balloons. She was poised to unleash
her latest concoction: “Best. Fucking. Ima. Ever!” The child for whom life is to be writ and lived LARGE needs a
plentiful supply of punctuation, and she had found a mark that was juicy and
I burst out laughing. My guard had dissolved. Best fucking
Ima ever is something I can live with. Merrily.
That we, humans, ever trying to navigate fraught
relationships, can go from “fucking Ima” to “best fucking Ima” in a flash, is
reassuring. Of course the direction can also be reversed. But there is
something slippery and gooey and good about the mercurial space between the
two. Was it my hand on her head that changed her mood? Was it her words that
changed mine? Does the behavior affect the mood or does the mood affect the
behavior? Perhaps they are two sides of the same coin, as is the ear-splitting belly
laugh that refreshes me at turns, and that irks me at others. Relationships are
nuanced and complex. One of the few things that seem certain is that change is
bound to happen when you least expect it. Nothing is irreversible. Twists of
attitude, shifts of perspective — all are faces of the enduring coin.
As I walked out of the kids’ room that night, Liliana’s
words still trickling over me, I grasped something: her need for love and
attention was met. I know what it’s like when it’s not, and I know what it’s
like when it is. And when it is, there’s no denying it: best fucking feeling ever! Be it a vigorous embrace or a muted kiss
on the forehead.
Life’s horns have their soft spots.
I look at my five-year old twisting baby Alexander into
knots, and note the babe’s bright open smile. “He loves me”, she pronounces,
“look, he’s smiling”. Yes he does, I accede. He is sporting a jovial smile
“Oh I love the baby”, she avows. I love you, my baby, I say. And she
laughingly counters: “I’m not a baby”, as she folds into my arms. I smile.
Sometimes life’s horns are to be given, not taken. Flip it and reverse it! Let
her love life. I am living love.
by Dana Inouye | Oct 24, 2013 | Blog
“No pee-pee fairy!” the kids lament casually upon entering
my bedroom in the morning. Groggy and bleary-eyed, I mumble, “it’s still early,
maybe she’ll arrive later…”
Alas, we have fallen into the reward system of disciplinary and
restorative measures. Sticker charts are scattered on the dining room table,
and the pee-pee fairy has become a long-standing fixture. Having undergone
various permutations since her original thrust on dryness throughout the night,
(“bed” – as in “stay in it” – fairy, [fill in the blank] fairy), the fanciful
pixie of choice, who leaves a little something under the pillow, remains,
irrevocably, the pee-pee fairy.
Fairies are generally described as mythological creatures
bearing supernatural or magical powers. They are also capricious and
mischievous. On count of the latter, I stand guilty.
As for the former – the magical and the supernatural – I am
porous and flawed.
Sebastian, ever the thinker, prods: “Ima, why does the pee-pee-fairy
come in the afternoons and not in the mornings?
“Well, you know… “ I stammer, “she… um… she needs time to
sleep in the morning, to gather her energies… she’s a little sleepy and mixed
He laughs his knowing laugh: “So you’re the pee-pee-fairy!!”
Later, tongue-in-cheek: “What does she look like? Can you
take a picture of her?”
And still later, distending his propensity for convergent
thinking, coupled with a twinkle in the eye and a diffident smile: “Ima, why
does the pee pee fairy only come when you’re at home?”
“And why is she always on vacation when you’re not at home?”
Liliana pipes in: “Yeah, why does the pee-pee fairy have so
many days off?” Hers is a different kind of thinking; she is less concerned
with the conundrum of the thinly disguised fairy, and more with the sprite’s —
whomsoever she may be –unseemly neglect.
I try to weave elaborate stories, but whom am I kidding?
Even Liliana smiles her mischievous smile as I deny my
affiliation with the pee-pee-fairy: “you smiled so I know you’re joking.
Smiling means you’re joking!”
The surreptitious identity of the pee-pee fairy has become
so familiar that it is laughable: “ Hey, what do you kids expect?” I lob
offhandedly, “you know the pee-pee fairy’s schedule…”
Plainly, the kids know the truth. But the pee-pee-fairy
maintains her hold, her allure.
Surely, the pee-pee fairy, alongside a cohort of fanciful figures (Tooth fairy, Santa) endure for a reason.
The filmy space between knowing and believing, between
reason and faith fuels our fancy. In this space, the question of whether to believe
or not to believe is hushed, muted; what resonates in its place is a serene
acknowledgment: how nice it is to suspend our disbelief. Faith and logic, while differing, are
sometimes two sides of the same coin.
That veiled space between the real and the illusory contains
still more creases in its folds: it insinuates pleated pulls between us and the
universe… crinkled tugs between action and destiny.
While picking at her rice during dinner, Liliana muses: “Ima,
how do wishes come true?”
I pause, silently grasping for an adequate answer: uh…. depends
what the nature of the wish is, is it something that you yourself can actualize
or something that relies on the grace of some entity, is it material or
spiritual, is it or…
Sebastian interjects reflectively: “Yeah, I wished for
something a long time ago on a shooting star, when we were in Hawaii, and it
still didn’t come.
“Hmmm… Did you tell anyone about your wish?” I nudge.
“No, it’s s’pposed to be a secret.”
I sigh, slightly defeated. Not knowing what his wish is, I
have no agency in its potential actualization.
Alas, what is the balance between orchestrating things and trusting
that they will happen? Between planning and letting be?
Perhaps, the best we can do, as parents, is to inhabit the
role of those amorphous fairies — to surreptitiously prepare measures and
serve up conditions – and then to flutter away and observe the magic.
We can give our children fairy wings. But must grant them
the freedom to flutter away with them.
What’s more, we must have faith that their (ill)logic is apt –
for now: because at this stage, life is about thinking big. And control.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have been disinvited
to Liliana’s upcoming 5th birthday: “Well then you can’t come to my
birthday!” she storms off indignantly.
“If you don’t
do what I want”, goes her logic, “then I won’t let you do what you want.” It’s
the kind of logic that’s not easy to dispute.
“If the pee-pee-fairy doesn’t come then you have to buy me
two, no three, things…”
“Aba squished my shoes so he has to buy me 100 new shoes…”
In addition to a bold sense of logic, Liliana sports a
resolute case of divergent (or shall we say selective) thinking: as she
clutches the thing she wants in the store, she declares that I said maybe and
that “maybe means maybe yes!” (To my retort that maybe also means maybe no, she
shakes her head firmly, narrowing her eyes and shaping her lips into her
[Her older brother meanwhile checks the prices on everything
and crinkles his nose in repugnance as if to say what a rip-off, a colossal
waste of money.]
His sister of course remains un-swayed. As I smile at him
and secretly desire to buy HIM everything, I gather my corrective energies and
prepare to stand my ground with her and block a barrage of vitriol.
The “because I’m your mother and I said so” refrain
sometimes feels thin. But it holds; it’s my
way of thinking big, my measure of control.
My four and a half year old diva “hates me forever” lately.
A lot. Mercifully, I’ve come to a point where I welcome it: with a grin.
There is something both comforting and invigorating about surrendering
to the release of emotional extremes. I do not wish to deny her anger, to deny
her spectrum of emotions.
Moreover, there is something to be said for letting hateful
words just roll off your skin like a gelatinous yolk; something to be said for
the sense of vindication in my role as mother — not as peer — vis-à-vis my
daughter that spreads over me. Mostly, there is something to be said for
knowing that “forever”, in the conception of a child, is ephemeral and
Mere moments later, I sit next to her and she sidles up next
to me, wrapping her arms around me. The moment of “hating forever” has its
place, because it inevitably morphs into an eternity of loving “in the moment”.
She wraps her arms around me and I envelop her. The eternal
moment is invariably symbiotic.
One recent evening, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree was the bedtime book of choice. I asked the kids,
after reading the story, what feels better, to give or receive? “To hug Ima”,
Sebastian offered, and they each took their turn hugging me. I of course hugged
them back, radiating warmth. And thought: what an apt synthesis of the
giving-receiving conundrum: plainly you can’t give a hug without receiving one
When I pick up Liliana from daycare, she runs up to me beaming,
and clutches me, before running back to perform daredevil acrobatics on the
When I pick up Sebastian from the bus stop, he runs up to me
flush-faced, and enfolds my leg gently. He unfolds an encoded I love you note
and goes on about shadow puppets, long-necked dinosaurs, mystery codes, and
As Sebastian draws near his seventh birthday, my previous
injunctions for him and his sister to slow down, to not grow so fast have given
way to hushed marvels at the people they are becoming.
I realize that it is I
who must slow down; so that I can
appreciate the wondrous ways that they are growing up. It is I who must wander into fairyland, and have faith — that
everything is progressing logically — that the real is fantastic, and that the
fantastic is real.
Sometimes our wishes are right in front of our eyes.