Tonight, it was a tight schedule to get her to bed on time with other things on my plate. When we finally settled for her nightly snuggle, I could relax and breathe. After she settled, I asked her to share three wonderful things from the day. With a little help, she listed a number of things as she likes to list seven. My favorite was, “Number five is that I’m healthy, wonderful and have a good heart.” It was music to my ears that she included herself as something fantastic in her day. Wow. She was a tad bashful when she said “wonderful” perhaps realizing most would find it unusual to speak about oneself in that way, but I affirmed it. “You are healthy, wonderful, and you do have a good heart.” I’m thrilled that, at this point, in her life journey, she has deeply embedded a strong, positive sense of self. She gets most of the credit, and then my deep appreciation to all the loving people who have related to her in a way that makes her feel this way.
We were driving to see a friend this weekend and had just crossed a bridge…
Her – “New day! New possibilities!”
Her – “How come you didn’t say it?”
It’s something I usually belt out with a trumpet sound each morning as we cross a certain bridge.
Me – “Well, I usually only say that on the way to school. Do you want me to do it now?”
Her – “Yeah.”
Me – ‘Newwwww dayyyyy! Newwww… possibilities!!! Da da da da!”
Me – “Why do you like that?”
Her – “Because it’s fun.”
Me – I also like it because it’s hopeful. It’s saying life can be better today and in the future.”
Her – “Oh.”
Me – “But you don’t really think like that, do you?”
Her – “No.”
Me – “You like your life right now, today, don’t you?”
Her – “Yes.”
Me – “Good. Keep it that way.”
Her – “You keep it like that, too.”
Me – “Like you?”
Her – “Yeah. Keep it like me.”
Me – “I’m working on it, Bear. Working on it.”
At bedtime last night, while I was changing bed sheets, she pulled out ‘My Book About Me,’ a fill in the blank book by Dr. Seuss and Roy McKie
Her – “I want to read this to you.”
Me – “It’s kind of late.”
Her – “Please?”
Me – “Okay.”
Her – “Yay!”
Me – “Nonna gave that to you, right? You have a special Nonna.”
Her – “Mmh.” (yes)
Me – “She is very generous with you.”
Her – “Yeah, and you have a special Mom who is generous and kind.”
Her last comment caught me off guard a little, but I most certainly agree.
As usual, heading into a weekend, the question on my mind was how to balance giving her a rich weekend with tending to my tasks. She helped me through the process…
Me – “Should we go to Lowe’s first to get the swing working well, or should I get some roof work done while you watch TV?”
Her – “Yeah, yeah, yeah, do the roof!”
Me – “Well…”
Her – “Daddy, do the roof. Get the hard work done first.”
I chuckled. It’s something I have told her numerous times, though I don’t recall doing so in months.
Me – “Okay. Where did you learn that, by the way? Who told you that?”
Her – “No-one. Myself.”
Me – “Uh… I think I told you that.”
Her – “Yeah.”
And with that, she headed to the TV to watch cartoon ponies in the air conditioning while I got soaked with sweat on the roof. I was happy to have her nudge on a project I didn’t really want to tackle, even if it was coupled with the ulterior motive to watch cartoons.
Got in from a tennis lesson to see her returning from where we keep the kitchen garbage bin and promptly sit down to feast on a grapefruit. Suspicious, I walked to the bin and saw a healthy portion of the sweet, cold watermelon I had cut up for her prior to my lesson…
Me – “Come here, please.”
She came and looked up at me
Me – “Why did you throw away this watermelon?”
Her – “I want the grapefruit.”
Me – “I don’t think so. You’re not eating that grapefruit.”
Me – “No way. You threw away perfectly good watermelon that could have been put back in the fridge. I spent energy going to the store to get it, spent money on it that I earned through teaching tennis, and spent energy cutting it for you. Then you’re just going to toss half of it in the garbage? I don’t think so. You owe me a dollar.”
Her – “But I don’t have a dollar!”
Me – “You have plenty of dollars.”
A friend was listening, and it occurred to me for a moment that I might seem rather hard core, but I was sticking to it.
A few minutes later, I was munching on the other half of the watermelon that I hadn’t cut…
Me – “Delicious! It’s so sweet and crisp! Mmmm…”
She edged near me and asked for a bite.
Me – “There’s some in the garbage,” I replied, knowing she would never consider that but to drive home my point.
With my point made, I softened up some…
Me – “You made a mistake in judgment. We all do. You can have the grapefruit. But I do want that dollar. It’s going to the house fund.”
Our friend smiled, sympathetic with her innocence and with what I was teaching. She suggested it go to the next watermelon.
Perfect. The lesson will ripen with her buying it. Maybe.
As, lately, I’ve been trying to be more on board with the onerous 8am school start time, I have been impinging upon my philosophy that school should serve childhood and not the other way around. However, I balanced things out today. Picked her up early. They can’t mark me for that!
It was fantastic; just an extra forty minutes, but it gave us more space. When she got home, I let her watch a little TV before insisting that she skip the cartoon ponies and play outside in her bathing suit while a friend and I washed our cars.
Soon, it was onto the pool where she rode the inflatable shark while I offered different challenges to surmount. She defeated a killer whale, giant jelly fish and squid, pirates, miniature scorpions, and sharks. She loved it! When I was ready to stop she begged for me to get more creative. So, the beach balls became eyeball monsters and the pool floats were mammoth, chomping sea lips. I urged her to kick, hit and bite, which, I realize, is the opposite message she us getting about human problem-solving. But if an eyeball monster is attacking you don’t just sit there! It teaches her to be proactive and resourceful when necessary. She defeated everything, and I crowned her queen of the sea!
Next, we flowed into Earth Day. She wanted to make butterfly gifts for some friends, so she designed them while I made paper trees, a flower and a sun. Like most children, she loves being creative together.
She ended her day jumping on the bed while she belted out affirmations – “I’m blessed. I’m loved. I’m worthy!” This was followed by tickling and countless little sweet words and kisses from her to me.
While I appreciate the school she attends and love and respect her warm, thoughtful, dedicated teachers, I can’t wait for summer to try to create more days like this.
Childhood comes first, and I’ve got to try hard to make sure that’s the case.
Driving to school, I flipped the music on to find my ease again after getting stressed about leaving with just enough time to get to school. God forbid I’m late and put her childhood wellness ahead of rote system compliance! Anyway, I digress…
Music playing, I belted out with Ed Sheeran…
Me – “Baby, I..”
Her – “Daddy, that’s just weird what you said now.”
Me – “What? Baby I? That was weird?”
Her – “Yeah.”
Me – “Oh.
Quietly, I noted to myself this change in perception, like I was now a separate species. I thought I had until ten or twelve before I would be considered out of it.
We did make it to school with one minute to spare, though. I guess that makes me normal. Sigh. I’d rather be weird.
She is still learning, especially with adults, what was drummed into me as a kid (thankfully) – look people in the eye when you greet them and part ways and in general when conversing.
One of the ways I get this message across is at night at bed time (and when we part at school). She’ll finally be somewhat settled and before I turn off the light I’ll say, “Wait, let me see you.” What it really means is ‘let’s stop for a moment and connect spirit to spirit.’
Tonight, I reached to turn off the light after all the snack, brush, repeating, silliness, firm voice spiel…
Her – “Wait. Don’t you want to see me?”
Me – “Of course.”
Got close to her and looked eye to eye. Have to say I was caught by surprise by the aliveness that shone out. I told her so.
Me – “Is there anything you want to talk about?”
Me – “Are you sad about anything?”
Her – “No.”
Me – “Are you mad about anything?”
Her – “Of course!”
I was surprised.
She then hold me about an incident at school which I had been alerted about by one of her teachers where she and a friend got frustrated and kicked each other. We discussed it until she understood better how it must feel for the other child.
I’m glad she asked… “Don’t you want to see me?” That led to “Don’t you want to listen to me?”
Yesterday evening, I finished a home repair project for the day and immediately shifted into rolling the garbage bins down the drive. She ran after me while Nonna called her to bed from the door.
Me – “Nonna is calling you.”
Her – “Daddy, I just want to run with you.”
It occurred to me that, though she had been wonderfully attended to, she wanted some time with me. Besides, it wouldn’t delay her bedtime by much.
Me – “Ok.”
As we reached the end of the drive…
Me – “Nonna sure spends a lot of time with you, doesn’t she?”
Her – “Uhhuh… because she loves me.”
Indeed, my Mom had done math, helped her write a story, played Legos and prepped her for bed. My girl sees all of that quality time as an expression of love.
But, even as helpful as my Mom is when she’s in town, I’m still home base for my daughter. She still wants that quality time with me, and that’s fine by me. I love being her home base in life.
I started it with her one morning when she said school was boring. Since then, it’s gradually become another one of our nighttime rituals…
“Think of three wonderful things about your day”
Tonight, as she was exhausted, I listed them for her
Me – “Enjoying math with your teacher and everyone being so proud of you. Shopping for a new bathing suit with Nonna. Finding Gabby’s doll which made her day. Tracy giving you that special gift…”
Her – “And loving Daddy! That’s five!”
I chuckled, amused and touched
Me – “And loving you. Give yourself a big hug.”
She wrapped her arms around herself then turned back to me…
Her – And loving Daddy more. That’s seven!”
She knows that’s my favorite number, and it’s on her mind since she just turned that age.
Me – “You’re developing a wonderful habit (by reviewing wonderful things from her day) that will help you your entire life. I’m going to learn from you.”