by JulieIt's the last week of school, which means I'm pretty much up to my face in essays and grades, so I hope you won't mind my sharing an essay of my own! I picked this one because it has a bit of Christmas in it, and also because it reminds me of how in both of my two most favorite "jobs," parenting and writing, the failures and successes seem forever wrapped up together into one "gift". I wouldn't return those gifts for anything.
It's snuggle time with my four year old, those minutes when the rest of the day fades into the darkness outside the reach of her ladybug night light.
I whisper, "I love you so very big. As big as the whole sky."
She smiles, not letting on if she knows that I'm entirely unoriginal. The words just fit now. I plant a kiss on her round, sticky cheek. I guess a bath was in order, but it's too late now.
"I love you a google. Sixty four google," she says, clearly proud of her newest word. "And you can get me a bunny for Christmas."
"Let's put that on your list," I agree. Ah, the magical list. It doesn't exist, not physically, but the mention of it gets me out of a good many whine-a-thons. That random toy in the checkout line? Let's put it on the list! All those things you circled in the catalog with Sharpie? Let's put them on the list!
"How many days is it now?"
Today is April 6th.
"Maybe a couple hundred." It's too late for math, too. Most times are.
"What is a couple?"
"Two hundred?" she moans. That is a lot to a four. Anything past "the next day after this day" may as well be never.
I begrudgingly count on my fingers and perform feats of multiplication. "More like two hundred seventy."
She is forlorn.
I remind her that if we skipped right to Christmas, we'd miss Easter (stuffed animals and sugar), summer (swimming and sugar), Halloween (costumes and sugar), and a ton of other neat stuff.
Her face relaxes. I knew that would work. I'm getting good at this parenting thing.
"So what else can you get me for Christmas?"
"Well, honey," I launch into another lecture, "you know Christmas isn't just about presents. It's about family and love. We can spend time snuggling by the fire, and we can sing all those Christmas songs. We can make crafts for people. We'll bake cookies, go look at the lights, and just have fun, you know, being together.And there's doing stuff for other people, of course." Not so eloquent, but it'll do.
I lean in to kiss her goodnight one last time.
"So I can get a bunny AND cookies...cookies with a Santa face," she says dreamily, tired eyes suddenly bright with the idea of frosting and sprinkles. Her supreme loves are sugar and stuffed animals. And she's a master negotiator with those eyes. This grows increasingly problematic as she's now wise to the fact that grapes are not technically a dessert. They can even get me to buy her a stuffed animal at the store--her holding the elephant/monkey/dachshund/hedgehog tenderly but fiercely, big upturned grey eyes glistening, saying, "But, Mommy, I loooooooove her."
In those moments, I develop amnesia. I forget the garbage bag full of jilted animals we just sent to the thrift store. I forget the magical list...
My "spirit of the season" lecture has entirely missed the mark and the parenting skills I was just patting on the back recoil from the jab to their self-esteem.
Still, the mark cuddles up to me, eyes closing, visions of sugar bunnies dancing in her head.
Oh, but I looooooove her.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful, love-filled holiday season!