I’m always excited when I pick up my daughter. Today was no exception. And, with the school year ending, there is additional excitement in the air with positive anticipation of a summer of growth, adventure, learning and creativity.
So, I got to singing a song about her in a silly operatic voice…
Me – “Once upon a time, there was a baby named Isabella who grew into agirl who was happy, talented, smart, powerful…”
You get the point. She chuckled, appreciating the affirming remarks and then launching into a song about Daddy.
This went on for some time, including a second round of it after a stop at the grocery store. Finally, as we pulled into our driveway with me still singing…
Me – “Once upon a time, there was a girl who was raised by her Daddy and Elves… ”
I proceeded to name women who had been a nurturing presence in her life since she was little as well as my parents, Nonna and Papa.”
She quickly interrupted me…
Her – “Daddy, they’re not Elves. They’re Angels. Nonna is an Angel. Papadoodle, too.”
Well, I couldn’t agree more. They are angels.
They have complemented her life and my journey as a near full-time single parent in countless ways, adding love, affection, playfulness and new experiences to her childhood. I’ll forever be grateful for her angels.
On way back from a trip to northern FL, we took a detour for one more adventure at Ichetuknee Springs where you raft down a gentle current for 1-2 hours. As we meandered through back roads…
Me – “Bellina, put down the tablet and look around. You’re in a different part of Florida with different things to see.”
Her – “Okay.”
She looked out
Me – “Look at this small town. Can you imagine growing up in such a small place? No malls, very few stores or people.”
Her – “Yeah…
She took it in for a bit, the little fire station and post office then added…
Her – “It’s really cute and cuddly, though.”
She was in bed, and I was there for the nightly snuggle. She continued to glance here and there and chatter…
Me – “And your eyes are open, why?”
Her – “Because I’m vibrating.”
Me – “Because you’re vibrating?”
Her – “Yeah. I don’t even know what that means.”
Me – “It means you have energy.”
Her – “Yeah. I do.”
On the dock by the lagoon eating blueberries and raspberries to start out our day, Father’s Day at that…
Her – “I have fun with you,” she said quietly.
She was saying that she felt loved by spending quality time together doing something simple, I knew.
Me – “Awww. I have fun with you, too.”
Me – “My life is so much more fun with you than it would be if I didn’t have you for a daughter.”
She smiled a bit bashfully, feeling loved.
While I had a fantasy of making blueberry pancakes for the two of us on Father’s Day, I forgot to get the mix yesterday. It’s okay. This was plenty satisfying.
And the day begins…
She was gulping down mango sorbet and out of the corner of my eye I noticed that she was glancing at me occasionally to see if I would intervene. It was certainly tempting as lunch hour was approaching, but I bit my lip.
Her – “Dadda (she sometimes calls me that), how come you’re not getting mad at me for eating so much sugar.”
Me – “I’m giving you the freedom to make a wise decision for your body.”
Her – “I will.”
And, with that, she gulped more down, closed it, walked to the fridge, opened it again thinking I wasn’t looking and got in one last bite.
While I’m not a punishment oriented parent, I did go there and take the tablet and TV away for three days. But then I came back to helping her understand why telling the truth is in her best interest.
Me – “Number one, it wasn’t kind. Do you want a Daddy who lies to you?”
She always sees her behavior clearly when I discuss it coming towards her from a friend or from me. Of course, she said no.
Me – “Number two, it’s bad energy. What you send out comes back to you. If you lie, that’s bad energy going out into the universe and in some way it comes back. Now, you know that. We’ve discussed that many times. So, why, knowing that, would you send bad energy out?”
She agreed it was not a good idea
Me – “And number three, who does it hurt when you pretend you brushed your teeth and don’t? That’s right you. You don’t want someone drilling holes in your teeth, do you? You have to make the little efforts in life. It’s part of life, and it’s every day. If you embrace that, life will be easy for you. If you don’t, it’s harder.”
She finally interrupted me as she has learned to do very calmly and clearly…
Her – “Daddy, I shouldn’t have lied. I should have brushed my teeth.”
I let it go as I noted to myself that surely I fibbed a thousand times growing up about this or that.
Sorry Mom. It’s just that I wanted to play so badly!
The blessing and curse of having parents who both value wielding words well is that they cultivated an ear in me for good grammar. That’s not to say that I have perfect grammar. Far from it, but I try to at least speak decently. It’s heritage.
My Dad taught English long ago, and my Mom has taught language all her adult life and authored seven books on Italian language.
So, when my tennis student starts a sentence with “Me and…” it’s nails on a chalkboard. When I hear, “Like… you know…” I cringe. If someone says “So fun” I’m oft tempted to let them know it’s “So much fun” as my Dad did with me countless times.
And, being that I tend to take things to extremes, I have this fetish for adverbs being used correctly. When someone uses the ‘ly’ on an adverb correctly, well, horrible as this sounds, it’s almost as satisfying as biting into Toblerone chocolate.
Naturally, I’ve started my girl out on this path with gentle corrections now and then.
Tonight, I was getting her ready for bed…
Me – “I’m glad you’re back safe.”
Her – “Safe-ly.”
I chuckled. Couldn’t quite believe my ears. It’s not like I correct her all that much. But here she was, without a clue about what an adverb is, correcting me.
Me – “Yes, honey. Safely.”
She had just hit her pillow in bed and out plopped a word I’ve never heard her use…
Her – “Independent.”
Me – “Independent? Where did that come from?”
Her – “I don’t know. What does it mean?”
Me – “Well, there is dependent, independent and interdependent. Dependent is where you rely on others for everything. You follow what they tell you to do in life. You don’t make decisions for yourself.”
Her – “No, that’s not me.”
Me – “Independent is where you make your own decisions for your life. You want to make your own money. You think for yourself. You…”
Her – “That’s me.”
I then went on to give a description best I could of an interdependent person…
Me – “An interdependent person creates her own life but also realizes that she is not alone on her journey. There are others to be considered. She tries to make it work for herself and those around her. She finds that balance that honors herself and others.”
Her – “That’s a lot… eight things. Okay, that’s me. But which one is better?”
Me – “I don’t know if it’s whether one is better but what works best in life. I’d say interdependent people are the happiest.”
Her – “I’m happy, so I’m interdependent.”
Me – “Yes you are.”
We were having dinner on the dock, and she was dancing in between bites. At one point, she wiggled her butt in an exaggerated manner and then laughed referencing a popular song’s video about the subject.
Her – “Isn’t it funny that the girls do that?”
By funny I knew she meant – sort of odd.
Me – “Do you like it?”
She shook her head no.
Her – “Do you?”
Hmmm… how to answer that one?
Me – “Well, I think maybe they cross the line into not being respectful to themselves. What do you think?”
Me – “I do like that they are free with their bodies, though. I guess each woman needs to decide for herself where the line is between being free with her body and disrespecting herself. And they cross the line in that video.”
That answer seemed to make sense to her.
We walked off the dock.
Me – “Who showed you that video, anyway?”
Her – “You.”
Me – “Me? No! Really?”
Guess that was in one of my ‘you can’t shield your kid completely from popular culture’ moments. Better to be the one gently bringing to their attention things that they will encounter and have to make sense of than to just keep them in a bubble and cross your fingers.
Me – “What’s it like being seven?”
Her – “Fun. Happy. Exciting.”
Me – “I thought so.”
Of course, she’s been saying that about life for as long as I can remember.
That being said, I think seven is a special year in one’s life. You’re in your innocence in so many ways, still, but you have such an expanded sense of yourself and the world. The world is rich and alive with possibility.
I fully intend for this to be a magical year for her.