You said a hurtful word. You were mad that when I tried to help, using your purple Tinkerbell scrubbie, a little plume of soap clung to your upper cheek and then moved over to your eye. You were disappointed that I couldn’t keep the soap out, tired in the drooping glow of Sunday night. But then you moved into dangerous territory, into words that experiment with hurt.
“I wish you weren’t my mommy. you are just an annoying girl.”
The pain of the flyaway suds tried to move to my eye, tried to migrate into my heart, but I took it well, isolating my girl from those acid-tipped words. They mustn’t be allowed, though. Such words should not live in the heart (where they will later slip out, where they can grow).
It took a while, talking. Moving her rinsed-off little body, the long, sweet nearing four-year-old body out of the shower, onto our yellow bath mat. It’s the kind that could be used to dry off a van in two seconds flat at a really great car wash. Crying, crying, she wanted to stay in that bath, not connecting.
We didn’t use conditioner in her hair tonight. It was just shampoo and the really great honey-made brush just the exact size for her hand to hold. The tangles slip out and there is a sheen that moves through her hair like the Orinoko. She is a river of beauty, and sometimes wild.
We lay a small towel over her pillowcase after all of the talks, the prayer, the recounting memories, and my wooden-spoon spank was over. (Here are parenthesis, but this is not subtle: I did not grow up with spanks. I am, in essence, adversed. But. There is a but. I believe now, right now, with my loves, with my words that i plant specifically with them in their hearts, in their minds, with palpable, poetic, demonstrative love, there is also an accompanying spank. I show them, it is not done in any anger. My voice, my mind, is cool and it is with sadness but strength of mind, that i do it. Once. And with the hope, the intention, that with all my radical, love-fest, gorgeous, firm words, accompanying natural consequence, there will be growth. change. a shift. a remembrance of love and wisdom that accompanies or even proceeds action).
I believe we all need to see, still, there is real kick-back to our behaviors. our words have power. time spent on one thing affects others. we are all wet paint sometimes, when our hearts are awakened to the undying laws that we affect others. that kind words beget life, and spouting hurtful words from somewhere inside brings pain. There is blessing, always, and there is the possibility of pain, this wedge or mean thing which would like to test: how far can i go from them? What will happen if i say this? How far can i go and still be blessed?
And of course, all of this is part of growing from baby to toddler, little girl to big girl. We have to figure things out. We need freedom to experiment, yet we need the structure and goal of respectful words and sweet, gorgeous action. She’ll have to manage her frustration at my lack of language. I will always be different than the other moms. We will be the loud tickly dancing wild, asking questions people. I hope we always snuggle and talk about grievences, wonderment, or pain. I hope we, together, hold each others’ hand and say, “Listen, honey. We were made for love”.
Well, my child, my girl. Your little feet were made to dance and stomp and parade and sometimes snub, but come back. Always. You were made to run circles around fears, to flick on the lights and howl with laughter. You were made for so much love.
And i moved a strand of hair from her soft face and recounted memories, enumerated on my love. You see, G-d placed you inside of my womb. Everyone in your life was chosen for you, my dear, and look how I love you. From the very second. Look, I pointed to the decoupaged alphabet poster I’d made. “You were just teeny, maybe three weeks old! I kept all the papers, all my letters that I crafted on our kitchen table. Every day, tired, learning to nurse you, I wanted to make you this alphabet. And look“, I showed her. “See the shiny gold key over your K?” I told her about treasure, about her.
We mentioned the other poster, the one tracking her itty feet through each of her first twelve months. Aqua toes into teal and a blur of tangerine at the heel. There is color where I kept track. She has been my girl and I know I’m a good mom. We’re a team who is ready for four, methinks, and maybe in a few years, sixteen.
I sneak in later to re-tuck her endless legs back into their sheet, kiss her on the border of forehead and whispy hairline. the fan makes her shoulders cool, so i cover them up. i kiss my girl, taking the tiniest of inhales the same as when she was my newborn.
The next morning, when I’ve dropped them off, key in my bike, handbag in the crook of my arm, right before I am really off, I hear mother…”OKAAAAAAASAN!” her voice lifts my chin in an instant. I am at attention, peering through the diamonds in the gate for her. “Okaaasan! Bye Bye!” Her arms wave with ferocity. She has a friend flanking each side. They are also helping her wave. We are practically cheering. It doesn’t matter that she cried last night or that she grows impatient at my Japanese. she is still mine. my arms reciprocate, with the largest waves. Our smiles send each other off, send each other off with great-mamas-sized, perfect 4-year-old smiles that make our whole head glow. This is what it is to grow strong with you.