I’ve been super sick today. I barely had enough in me to get Billie from school. When I got there, I was met by her teacher, her face stern.
“Today was career day and all the students were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. Billie said she wanted to be a kitty cat. I told her that she couldn’t be a cat and she needed to pick a different profession. Do you know what she told me?”
“No,” I responded. I barely had enough energy to stand let alone continue this conversation.
“She told me-” the teacher stops herself short, deciding instead to make Billie take accountability for her reactions, “Billie? Billie tell your mother what you said.”
Billie looked at me very carefully, “I told her…” she continued staring at me like she was steeling herself for the worst, “I told her fine. Then I would just become a teacher so I can tell everyone what to do with their lives.”
And I laughed.
I laughed so hard.
Needless to say it was not the reaction the teacher was looking for.
And I love my job. It’s ridiculous and fulfilling and filled with the coolest people on this (and every other) universe.
But I work a lot.
And, when you work a lot, you tend to miss out on hanging out with your child.
So, tonight, I came home to a Billie who was dead asleep. Billie has often been dead asleep when I crawl in to hug her goodnight. In the beginning, I was racked with guilt. I was a terrible mom. I felt the pressure to be there for every waking moment on top of being there for my family financially. It has always been tough and stressful and I constantly struggle with my role as a mommy in the workforce.
Tonight I came home and kissed a thoroughly asleep Billie. She unconsciously wrapped her arms around my neck as I kissed her cheek.
“Did you catch all the dragons, Mommy?” She says this without waking up.
I made the mistake of leaving the room while the T.V. was on this morning.
Billie’s program ended in my absence and was replaced by some sci – fi movie where some dude takes another dude’s eyes out with a pencil.
I only know this happened because Billie calmly walked into the kitchen and informed me, “Mom. I just saw a man get his eyeball ripped out of his head.”
I tried to tell her it was pretend. I tried to explain that it was make believe. And that mommy would be more careful with trusting daytime television programming. Of course, none of that logic stopped her from telling everyone in the world that her mommy put a bad T.V. show on and scarred her for life.
“Daddy, did you know that mommy put on a bad show and I saw a man stab a man in the eyeball with a pencil and RIIIIPPPP it all the way out of him? ALL THE WAY OUT, DADDY.”
It has persisted into bedtime. She’s currently in her room with her covers up over her head wishing away the evil eyeball snatchers of the world. Occasionally I hear her saying things like, “But I have beautiful eyes. I like my eyeeeesss” before shivering back under her comforter.
This is the problem with imaginations, folks. They make what you saw so much worse. They amplify and magnify every crazy, scary, beautiful thing and propel it into a realm of psychotic proportions. And it does not shock me that some of us lose our imaginations as we grow older. Who can blame us? Every nerve, every synapse, every iota of you gets completely wrapped up in a reality that only exists to you. And sometimes it is so beautiful and fragile, like a bubble garden made entirely of blown sugar, that one small step, or unkind word shatters the whole thing. Other times it can be so consuming and devastating that you feel trapped inside it with no escape. It brings you to the best parts of yourself and holds a mirror up to your greatest fears.
What a fucking weight to carry.
But I can’t help but admire it. I can’t help but want to foster it and hold her in these dark times just to show her that she can conquer this. She can wrangle it and learn to use it in powerful ways that no one has even dreamed of yet. She comes to me constantly with pictures of winged serpents fighting ferocious dragons and giant squids battling sharks and I think she already knows this. She knows enough about the frightening things to want to identify with them and tell their stories. She sees the fear. She processes it. Then she headbutts it with an artistic fervor that I can’t help but be awed by.
And, again, here we are at that super cheesy revelation that inevitably comes as I write these things: She’s helping me. Don’t get me wrong- my imagination is pretty on point and always has been. But I think she’s showing me how to process the fearful parts.
You lean in.
With blind hope, faith, and sometimes unapologetic rage. You handle the squids and the sharks and the creepy eyeball stealers in your nightmares, then your dreams, then on paper. And, slowly… eventually… they become as fragile as the page you drew them on. They become characters that no longer frighten you. You begin to realize that, even in your imagination, only you can frighten you.
Before this month we had never really met the three year old boy in the apartment above us. He’s lived there for over a year but, despite our many efforts to set up a play date, we very rarely saw him.
Then, three weeks ago, his father passed away.
The mother and grandmother asked us for help so, for the last 3 weeks we’ve been watching him a couple days out of the week, 5-8 hours each time.
In all that time, he’s said 3 words to me. He refused to speak or look me in the eyes. I rarely saw him smile.
But today we had a breakthrough. He hugged me. He told me jokes. We chased squirrels together. He accidentally called me “mommy.”
Billie noticed the change, too. She said, “Wow. You’re smiling now and you have so many words!”
He responded, “Yea. My smile is getting fixed slowly. I have words now.”
I’m doing everything I can not to bubble snot cry on this here playground. That kid just showed me that it’s possible for the heart to shatter and heal at the same time.
Billie’s sense of style could very well be the only reason I believe in a spiritual power greater than my own. I have seen that child put together an outfit comprised of 6 different types of patterns, two different bathing suits (one one- piece and one bikini bottom), a tutu, a scarf, one rainbow tennis shoe, one princess tennis shoe, and a jean jacket and BY GOLLY IT WORKED. Not only did the outfit work conceptually, I daresay it looked good. Really good.
Me? I live in gym shorts. I know this did not come from me.
If I had to guess this gift was either a) inherited from her super stylish father or b) she sucks the creative soul juice out of all of our artist friends. Either is a possibility.
Anyway, I digress, the kid’s got style. Continue reading “ALL MISMATCH ALL THE TIME!”→