The other morning I was leaving for work and P and the kid were leaving at the same time. He takes her to daycare in the morning and I pick her up in the afternoon. I backed out slowly as she stood in front of the garage, holding Teddy in one hand and waving to me with the other. I eased the van into the cul-de-sac and then rolled down my window as I passed the house. I kissed my fingertips and then flattened my hand and blew the kiss in her direction. Her little arm shot into the air and then her hand closed into a fist, capturing the kiss inside.
"I caught it, Mama!" she yelled to me.
It is moments like that that make me want to scoop her up and eat her alive or something. Like most three-year-olds, she spends most of her spare time plotting new ways to push old buttons. But there are those other times, too - the ones that make your heart swell and leave you grinning like a fool. When we walked into the state fair on Saturday, she was exclaiming over the Ferris wheel ("It's taller than me!") and just about everything else she saw. That's why we sign up for this parenting job, I think. That wide-eyed moment of discovery.
Watching my daughter explore her world also leaves me feeling nervous about her eventual loss of innocence. Two weeks ago one of our dogs killed two baby bunnies in our backyard. It was Karl, the big, black, fluffy dog who carried out the carnage - the Boxers would never bother with that sort of thing and in fact, didn't even notice the carcasses at all. A was playing with her water table on the deck. I hoped she wouldn't see the rabbits, so I tried to move them as surreptitiously as possible using a long-handled gardening implement. (The four-pronged rakey thing? What the hell is that called?)
Of course, she came running over. "Mama, what is it?"
"It's a bunny, but I'm afraid it died. I'm going to put it on the other side of the fence for now." I opened the gate and and put the two small bodies on the other side until P got home (disposing of dead things = husband's job). I felt awful for them, but why oh why do animals keep giving birth in my backyard? We have three dogs! Surely there are dog-free homes in our 'hood?
She watched me close the gate. "Is it not dead anymore?" she asked. I told her that it was still dead and then tried to change the subject. I don't know that I'm ready for an in-depth discussion about death. She has seen photos of our Boxer, Lucy, who died when A was 18 months old. I tell her that Lucy's body didn't work anymore and that she died. I have no idea how to explain this type of thing so that she isn't left with some weird, disjointed, incorrect idea in her head.
I suspect that this is why I have also been dragging my feet a bit about having the big adoption discussion. While the initial discussions will be simplified to match her level of understanding, eventually she will have to learn details that may not be so pleasant - like the fact that her birthfather is in prison, denies that he even is her birthfather, and wasn't in any way supportive of A's birthmother. She struggled alone. If A starts asking tough questions when she gets older, we have to answer them honestly.
I am sure most parents have had some of the same feelings I am experiencing now. You don't want your young child to know that things like war and crime exist. How do you explain abortion? Addiction? Pornography? Ack, my brain goes limp just thinking about it.
I am so eager to see who she will become when she grows up, but I can't help but want her to stay three forever. I often ask her, "Why do you keep growing? Can't you stay little?"
"I have to grow," she always responds matter-of-factly. Right now the worst thing she ever has to face is being separated from Teddy because he is in the wash. And, that's just fine with me.