Parental Guidance?

It was my fault we were late for school. I didn’t want to wake my daughter knowing she had a rough night. I don’t like waking her up for school as it is, but it’s particularly painful when the night is long and sleep is all she needs. Still, I’m a conformist. I do what I’m told. I wake her, feed her and rush her down the street to a classroom where activities will bustle, and six hours will rush past with little to no acknowledgment of what transpired. 

How do I feel about our lapse of together time? Hungry for more information even though I already get far more than my mother had. When news comes in through Class Dojo or an email, I pour over the contents like the philosopher’s stone. There’s an answer here to her recent melancholy or joy depending on the day, week, or minute. Time moves in all directions when navigating the life of a little person. Offspring matter as everything and yet have very little say over anything. So often she’s left without a choice, yet this is not her main complaint. Her main complaint is that I don’t play babies with her more often while she’s still young enough to want to play with her dolls. I couldn’t agree with her more and yet, something pulls me back. Probably because I enjoy so many activities more than “playing family” and taking care of twenty-two baby dolls. 

“How about crafts?” I suggest. 

“And then we can play babies?” 

“Well, how about a swim?” 

“We can take my bath babies in and pretend we’re taking them to the beach?” 

“How about a hike?” 

“That might be hard to push the stroller or carry the babies the whole time, don’t you think?” 

Her responses always led to the way in which babies could be incorporated into whatever fun I was suggesting.  Jennifer and I have had multiple conversations about enjoying this time and playing with her as often as we can since the time is nearing when she’s preferring her friends across or down the street to us. We act sad, but still try and curb what she wants to play with us most. Isn’t that a kicker? I don’t even know if we’re aware of our participation in this daily conundrum. 

We wonder if she’s getting too much attention and then we wonder how that’s possible when the alternative is to ignore her. It’s not her fault she doesn’t have a sibling to contend with. In fact, from ages two to five she begged us every day for a baby sister and sometimes she yielded to include a baby brother if it meant it would actually happen. Parenting is hard. There’s nothing to compare it to and you’re alone with your mini tribe dependent on your next moves and only you are aware of the lack of confidence in making every decision you carry out like God. Why do we do this? There’s a weird pull to not be wrong or to be called out for behaving differently. Santa comes to mind. Do we share that a jolly old dude is bringing gifts to keep the spirit alive or do we white knuckle the truth without having a solid baby Jesus to fall back on? We went with the vague: “Some people believe in him, it, them…” you name it. For example: 

“Moms, does the easter bunny exist?” 

“Some people believe in EB.” 

When she was really young the questioning ended with our answer. Those were the good old days. She caught on relatively quickly we think, but then we’re biased. We have no other children to fairly compare her to. She wanted to play out the scenes for the fun of it like the tooth fairy was a favorite and the elf on the shelf shenanigans. 

In the end, we decided our goal is to make life as enjoyable as possible for as long as we’re here together. Sometimes that means tucking a baby doll in with our real child and kissing that plastic forehead like we mean it.  Sometimes it means eating a chocolate cookie and half a glass of milk in the wee hours between Christmas eve and Christmas day because baking into the false narrative meant more to her than accepting that such a fun-loving man doesn’t exist. 

In some ways, loving a little human is like one Easter Bunny riding a leprechaun who sprinkles garland on the tooth fairy straight from the north pole. In some ways, a household full of imagination is as valuable as the hard facts. Love should be a negotiation of playful fiction so that non-fiction might be taken a little less seriously. In the end, all families have got this Earth boat together. Love should be us parents intentionally trying to calm the waters. Amen. 

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