Friday, February 23, 2018

I am Sorry to Ever, Erin and Iris

I am sorry that yesterday I didn't really say anything interesting about my daughters except that they're cute and demanding. I know better.

I mean, they are cute and demanding (KIDS! WHAT CAN YOU DO?) but they're also pretty impressive humans.

And it wasn't until I became a mother I realized you really have so little to do with how they turn out. So you'll note I am not bragging when I write these three things about them:

This morning Ever asked me to write a note to her Chinese immersion teacher to explain a "homework situation" we had this week. I wrote the note and gave it to Ever. Ever took the letter and EDITED IT. Crossed out words, and added a few that punched in the punctuation. And then she handed in back to me.

Well. Hey. I mean...this blog is a digital testament of my inability, impatience and uninterest in editing. As a writer I am a one-draft-wonder. If it's not a sloppy first draft, missing words and parading spelling errors, it's definitely not mine. So it was quite the moment for me this morning to watch my seven year old daughter completely destroy my Post It Note dispatch to her teacher.

"I think we should start the note with the word 'Unfortunately'," she said to me with the pencil tapping her lips. "Because it is unfortunate what happened with my homework."

Part of her homework each week is to write an essay. I look forward to this ritual every week. I have never read her anything of my own writing, and yet she sounds so much like me when she writes. But better. Funnier. Clever-er.

A great joy in my life is watching her artist's soul develop in compelling--if not complex and confusing--ways. She expresses herself mostly through art--drawings, essays, letters, paintings, sculptures which means our relationship communication is often done non-verbally. When I want to know how she is doing, I sift through her creations like a detective looking for clues. It's there in her creations I find my daughter--her heart-breaks, the fears that keep her up at night, and her silly schemes I hope never go away.

A couple months ago Erin begged me to take her ice skating. And for a week I put it off. Every night before bedtime I'd say to Christopher, "Well, tomorrow I am going to have to come up with a new excuse to not go ice skating." And the pathetic thing is that we have an actual Olympic rink one mile down the road from our house that charges a few bucks to free skate.

Now, I've been called a great many things in my lifetime, but one perennial favorite of those who know me say I can be a bit...unyielding, but when it comes to ambition and tenacity, Erin makes me look weak. In a battle of wills I am useless. In short...we went ice skating.

I bought her a ticket to skate, helped her lace-up the gray sturdy ice skates we rented, gave her a few pointers I picked up from living in Quebec and sent her out on the rink.

Well, as soon as those rented blades hit that Olympic ice life changed. Her body instinctively assumed a graceful pose so natural and lovely it was undeniable she had a gift. And it was like I knew who she was, and I knew who I needed to be for her going forward. It was nothing short of a wondrous reveal: a sublime moment where your life--all of the bizarre turns and tricks played on you--suddenly make sense. In that curious moment, my body which made her body reminded me of the defined chemistry created for this one, unique human being.

Most of parenting is such a dry practice, you know? It milks you raw most days. But now when we show up to the rink for her regular skate, I know we'll both come home happy and full. We're doing what we were always meant to do, even if it never means anything other than a couple hours a week with her rented skates and my cold seat on the hockey bench watching her spin gloriously and smiling from the sidelines.

It has been my experience that you live with strangers when you have children. How are you supposed to know who these people are? They haven't even lived! They have very crude opinions and most of them are just about simple survival. You may be living with an ax murderer for all you know.

But right around four years old I start to get a clearer picture of who I am feeding at the dinner table every night. And its been different for every child. Always surprising. Always a twist you didn't see coming. It's like those unboxing videos my kids love on YouTube (that they only watch in SMALL DOSES!)( Unless I am distracted/sick/overwhelmed/overstimulated and need a long break! Ok, just being honest!).

Iris has been no different. Here we are hauling to the end of her toddler paradise, and she's surrendering her self more and more each day. And the big surprise is how much I like her. I like talking to her. I like listening to her. I like having her around. She's astute and aware (thanks to Mrs. Morgan the world's best preschool teacher for cluing me into those characteristics). When we go to the library she picks out books with Martin Luther King Jr's face on them (WOKE). And she uses her verbosity to say the best things. For instance, just now she said, "Mom, do you understand how important zombies are to me?"

YouTube. That's how she knows about zombies. You know there's a whole culture dedicated to toddlers whose love of Halloween knows no season? Come over some time and she'll read to you her favorite book B is for Brains which has taught her the ABCs of a zombie apocalypse.

Yes, in between binges of YouTube, I actually let my kids read books. Especially zombie books because don't you think there's something endearing about a three year old who can tell you the most apt way to defeat the walking dead?

I told you, these girls are so much more than cute.

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