Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Love Hurts

She’s bright, you know, brighter than average and I’m not just saying that because she’s mine. She learns words voraciously, surprising us sometimes, like tonight in the bath when we asked her whether she wanted one washcloth of the other, and she said both, and we looked at each other, Darcie in the bath with her bra on and me on my knees on the tan towel by tubside, and confirmed that, no, neither of us had taught her that word. Or when, afterwards, the dog tore some fuzz off the new tennis ball, and she said no, Zellie; trash and picked up the fuzz and put it in the kitchen trashcan.

She loves people she hardly knows, and remembers their names, and looks for them, and blows them kisses in the dining hall. She bursts into song, grins delight at the moon, cups christmas lights in her fingers in the dark. She asks about bapa and jesse and mattie and josh just to hear about them, as if reminding herself that her bootstrapping memory works, or to distinguish dreams from blossoming reality.

I think I read once that being a little kid is like being on acid, what with the whole world opening like that, doubling in size and depth every day, only you don’t remember because part of what’s opening is that part of you that remembers things, and it’s young and busy.

She puts ladybug stickers on my eyelids and laughs. She tells us when it’s time for nap, and for snack, and for bath. She knows even more than she lets on, and even though I think it scares both of us sometimes, she knows that, too.

She’s heavy, and a pain sometimes. Her too-thin hair stands up in the back all day sometimes, impervious to repeated passes of licked parental hands. But she’s light itself, she’s beautiful, she’s patient and kind; she’s generous, and happy, and loving.

And she still sleeps in our bed at 16 months, and nurses too often, enough that we’re worried she isn’t getting enough of the right foods.

It’s not true, you know, that if you love somebody, you should set them free. It’s not enough. If you really love somebody, eventually, you drive them right to the door of wherever they want to be, and you drive away, and don’t wait by the curb to make sure they’re all right. You give them your number, and you tell them to call, but you do it.

You make their wings for them, and teach them how to use them, and show them how to get home if they need it. Because otherwise, they never learn to be themselves, and trust themselves, which they have to do if they’re going to learn to trust you. And, more importantly, they never become trustworthy, because people who can’t trust and know themselves can’t know trust at all.

Tonight I stood by her crib and watched her cry, or chose to, I’m not quite sure, but it hurt like hell to do it, and I wanted to stop, but I wanted her to learn to use her incredible self, and it’s the only way I know how. I told her that I knew that she wanted her mommy, and that mommy was okay, and Willow was okay, and it was time to stay in the crib now, just for a little while, and it was okay.

And then, after a while, I left. And it wasn’t really okay, not for either of us. It just had to be that way, that’s all, and the only thing you can say to a blotchy-faced sixteen month old screaming in the dark is that it’s okay. Even if it makes everyone uneasy, wary, sad, miserable, and just plain wore out.

And this is nothing new, and it will get harder, I think, and worse sometimes, and scary, too.

Because she’s ready, almost overripe – she’s smart, did I tell you, a good bit farther along than most at her age -- and we know it’s time to start setting some limits, so she can have structure to add to her latitude and skills, so she can learn, and grow, and fly away.

So she can fly away.

So, I got that going for me.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:18 PM |

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