Rose and I are walking home, hand in hand, when she asks, “Does everything have a shadow?”
Rose: “Not pigment.”
Rose: “Pigment. You know, the hard, flat stuff on the ground.”
Rose: “Oh, right.”
I laugh and squeeze her hand, thinking, thank goodness for the gift of the youngest child. First two bottom adult teeth crashing up like the plate tectonics of her gums. Starfish hands all filled with squish. Words squeezing out fast with soft, inarticulated edges. (Her voice on the phone is simply a squeaky blast). Always willing to grab a hand of mine rooting around her busy fingers.
Rose announces, when our cat has a sneezing fit, “Bee’s been bless-youing a lot.” Bless-youing. She said it again, I note as if a fairy just flew by, ephemeral and magic. Last weekend at a swimming pond, she wrapped a stranger’s dog in her own towel because it was “shivering.” She waves at the decrepit, bone-protruding neighborhood deer we call Old Lady. “Do you think she sees me wave?” Rose asks earnestly. What can I say? Suddenly, it seems my job is not only to prepare her for some unknown future, but also to preserve the fragile seed of innocence within.
Rose turned 7 last week.
Rose and I are growing up together, her shaping me at least as much as I shape her. She is not an “easy” child, and you know what? It doesn’t matter. What matters is how I respond. She isn’t here to fulfill my notions of a perfect family; she’s here to both become herself and realize that one’s self is a changing parade of conditions.
My parenting prayer lately has been, “Let me be a mountain of love and firm boundaries.” It’s like meditating – my mind wanders 44 times in 10 minutes, but the response is clear: bring my attention back to the breath.
My breathtakingly lucky days with children contain 44 moments that are excruciatingly hard, but the response is clear: Come back to love and firm boundaries. And if I fail? Try again. And again.
Yesterday, while riding in the car with Col, Rose and their friend, the friend said to Col, “You’re 9? You’re so small; you’re smaller than me, and I’m seven!”
There was a sharp pause before Rose turned to the friend, pointed out the window and said, “Look, there’s the carnival! Do you like the carnival? Are you going? What’s your favorite ride? Do you like the games? They cost five dollars, my mom says that’s too much for crappy prizes.” It could have been a coincidence, but I believe Rose was loading her friend’s mind with questions until any notion of her brother’s smallness was erased.
Still in the car, I turn up the Wings song, “Maybe, I’m Amazed,” singing along to words that are as true as they get. Baby, I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time.
“What does he say?” Rose asks.
“Baby, I’m amazed.”
“Baby, I’m a waste?”
“BABY, I’M AMAZED.”
“Why is he amazed?”
“Because it’s amazing to be loved.”
Reach Rachel Turiel at email@example.com.Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.