This exchange just happened between my daughter and I as she drifted off to sleep:
S – Mommy, did you know that life goes on and on for infinity? Not the kind of infinity that goes on and then stops when you stop it. The kind of infinity that goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and never stops. It’s kind of hard for you to imagine.
I mean, people die, but the life goes on. Like, you had me. Then I have a baby girl named Vinny. Then she has a baby boy named Peter, after Daddy’s middle name. Peter’s wife has a baby named Soshan, and Soshan has a baby named John, and his wife has a girl named Glora, and she has a girl named Rosie and she has a little boy named Izza. And it goes on and on. You know what I mean.
Me – You’re right, honey. That was really smart. Those concepts are hard.
S – I wasn’t even taught that. I just knew it from my own brain.
And what I meant by that ‘Oh’ was, Oh my God you’re going to be smarter than me by the time you’re in first grade. Also, she should name characters in the next YA dystopian novel.
My daughter has just hit a level of sentimentalism that I didn’t know was humanly possible. It is off the charts. This one goes to 11, folks. It all started on Sunday…
I let the kids watch a tv show, and they asked for Phineas and Ferb, which our family has newly discovered. If you’re not familiar with the show it’s about two step-brothers who have spectacular adventures to maximize their summer vacation fun. The cast of characters includes their teenage sister, Candace, who tries to get them in trouble, and their pet platypus who is actually a secret agent. Brilliant! I’m being serious. It’s really clever.
If I had known the drama this particular episode would cause, I never would have let the kids watch it. You see, my daughter is more empathetic than just about anyone I know, whether adult, child or in-between. It sounds sweet, and it is. And then you see the side effects. She accidentally hits her brother with a wooden spoon – she cries, he doesn’t. A friend’s balloon flies away as soon as we walk outside – she cries, the friend doesn’t. Somehow I still never seem to have a tissue handy.
Another side effect is that she gets very attached to things. She has a pink bunny, we’ll call her Bunny (because that’s what we call her), who must sleep with her every night or there will be no sleep. One time we were driving home from visiting my parents in Sacramento and we left Bunny behind. We were hours away before we realized it, and it was awful. The look of love and joy on her face when they were reunited was something I wish I could bottle up and give to the world. There would be no more war if we were all blissed out like that.
That bunny has been a companion to her for as long as she can remember. On Sunday’s rerun of Phineas and Ferb, their sister Candace goes to a sci-fi/fantasy convention dressed as Ducky Momo, a cartoon duck. My daughter could highly relate to Candace, who cared for the duck in plush form as a child and who has been her companion ever since. I know this because they did a sweet montage of a toddler Candace watching a cartoon of Ducky Momo, playing with the stuffed version of the duck, all the way up to Candace as a teenager with her Ducky Momo doll propped on a chair helping her pick outfits out of her closet.
When the montage was over I heard a gasp and sniff next to me on the couch. I hesitate to admit that my first ungenerous thought was “Are you kidding me?” I know that’s not the way a mother is supposed to react to her sobbing child, but cut me a little slack. We are talking a cartoon character within a cartoon show here, people.
“Honey, why did that make you cry? Are you okay?”
“Yes,” she said taking a huge breath and wiping her nose on her sleeve. “These are happy tears.”
That made me smile and give her a big hug. She ran and got her bunny and hugged it as she hysterical laugh-cried next to me. I thought that emotion was reserved for puberty, and I tried not to do the same weird, breathy contortions as I freaked out a little inside. Then she calmed down and I thought we were done with it.
Nope. Later that evening she asked for a Ducky Momo. We told her that Ducky Momo was not really a cartoon and that nobody makes a plush version of it. It’s not really a thing, Honey, we said. We hoped we were done with it.
Nope. That night, after the lights were off and she was in bed, we heard crying from her room. My husband went in to investigate. “I really want Ducky Momo!” She was sobbing hysterically.Have you ever been in a situation where you will say anything, literally anything, to make someone happy? Or in this case, to make someone stop being sad. We have. “We’ll look for one for you, we promise,” we said, just to get her to calm down and go to sleep. We hoped by the morning she would have forgotten about it. Of course, we knew it was only a hope.
As she was getting ready for school yesterday she asked me, tearily, if I had looked for a Ducky Momo doll yet. “What about Bunny? I thought that you loved her. Won’t she be sad if you cuddle with Ducky Momo instead?” Of course, as the words left my lips I wished I hadn’t said them. I think sometimes that I am not sensitive enough to parent her well.
The cries came in earnest. “I can love both of them!” I let her have cookies in her lunch. The anticipation was good for halting those tears of longing.
Yesterday evening was not as bad, because John drew a picture of Ducky Momo that she hung next to her bed and kissed before lights-out. Of course, we are aware that it might just be drawing out the pain.
We haven’t told her yet that John did find someone who makes Ducky Momo on Etsy. It’s a crazily expensive toy for a stuffed animal. Before I make the leap, I want to make sure it’s not just a passing desire. But as I said, sometimes I worry that I’m not sensitive enough for her.
I am still shocked by her reaction to a single musical montage. And you know what? Shame on you, Phineas and Ferb, for being so effective in your portrayal of the evolution of an attachment object. I may never be able to watch it again. At least not with the kids.
I just hit send on an email that was too long in the making. A real editor is going to take a look at one of my short stories, and it’s kind of terrifying. I’m sure it’s full of errors and clichés and poorly used idioms, despite my repeated attempts to edit them out. But I went out on limb and, though I held my breath when I did it, I clicked that button.
Perhaps there’s a comfort we feel when we hit a certain age and with that, a confidence to do something different and push our own boundaries. I’m inspired by people around me who do this.
I have a friend who is thinking of quitting her job and pouring herself full-time into her jewelry business. A past client opened a cute bottle shop in North Portland. My step-mom went back to school for her PhD when most people start to think about retiring. For all of us that “certain age” came at different decades in our lives.
The timing for me wasn’t right before now because of my own doing. My confidence was too low and my fear of rejection too high. I’d like to say that having kids inspired me to write, but really it was needing to have a moment to myself that did it. My husband and I now know that writing keeps me sane. I think it’s because I feel more confident about working and writing than I do about my parenting skills (more accurate to say skilz?). Probably because I’ve been doing the former two longer. See? Comfortable.
Despite my base reasons for starting to write, continuing to write does have an beneficial upside as a parent. It’s important for me to show my kids that finding a hobby and an outlet that makes them happy is an important part of their social and psychological development. Their eyes glaze over when I use those words, so I have to show them – By leaving them with their father for an evening and not letting them read what I wrote because they’re stories for grown-ups, thank-you-very-much.
So, maybe I have to keep working on showing them, just like I have to work on lots of things. At least at this point in my life I can do my best and have the confidence to know that it will be good enough. In fact, it might be really good. Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!
About those idioms: I’ve been kind of fascinated with them since I started writing again. Did you know that “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle” dates from the Scopes trial about teaching evolution in school. And before that most people didn’t know or weren’t taught of evolution, despite Darwin’s best efforts. It’s things like this that will probably keep me too sidetracked to ever complete that novel.
My daughter told me the other day that the reason she likes Leia/Renesmee is that she likes scary things. That explains a lot.
It explains why she wasn’t fazed when we came home on this blustery day and found that Demon Doll had raided the liquor cabinet. Her thumbs aren’t flexible enough to work the remote, so what else was she to do? Though how she found sherry in the house, I don’t know. Well, make yourself right at home, little lady, because none of us have enough daring to gaze into your bloody-looking eyes and challenge you.
John says that she reminds him of Kirsten Dunst’s character in Interview With a Vampire. So it’s Leia, Claudia and Renesmee. Her various names add up to Claureneia. That is what I will call her. It’s as appalling as she is. (BTW. If you haven’t met Claurenia before, read this.)