“Okay.” I sit down.
“Potty! I go potty!” She crawls into the bathroom.
“God job,” I say.
“I’m Baby E.”
“I know,” I say.
“Potty?” She looks at me curiously, and tugs on the leg of her pants.
“Yes,” I say. It’s 7:30 p.m. and my daughter goes to bed in half an hour. In real life, she will be eight years old next month.
“Pretend I go potty.”
My daughter is easily distracted from tasks she’s not fond of. Lately, conversation is her favorite form of distraction. But she’s not distracted this time; she’s pretending. She is a second grader pretending to be a baby going potty and she is, in fact, going potty where she should and when she should and I, sitting in my chair browsing Facebook (my own favorite distraction), am not about to complain.
So what if she’s a baby and she’s already talking and going potty? Now is not the time for me to explain which skills are acquired at which age. She’s a highly imaginative child and I applaud her.
“Good job,” I say again, for emphasis.
The truth is, I’m out of synch with her quite a lot lately. It’s been true for weeks now, though we may be coming out of the dark these last few days. Even as I write this now, I realize we are both trying to connect – which is something, even if we must learn to connect in new ways. How’s that for an argument for regular writing practice?
Last night, our tuck-in conversation went something like this: “Pretend there’s a store that sells Mami and Me clothes. All Mami and Me. Like Dolly and Me. But Mami and Me. Pretend. Okay?”
“Mami, we’re in the store – No! Pretend it’s a museum, a Mami and Me Museum. Okay?”
“Okay,” I reply.
She echoes me. “Okay.”
“Do we make crafts together?” I offer.
Then I realize she’s speaking, very quietly, and I’m not quite sure if she’s speaking to me or just sharing what she sees in her mind’s eye. “…this painting of a lady,” she’s saying, “and her daughter. They’re dressed kind of old-fashioned.”
I think she’s describing the art on the walls of our mythical museum. I can see it, too, which blows my mind. “Is it all Mami and Me activities – like art activities – things we can do together?” I ask, imagining what we might do together this weekend in real life.
“No,” she replies. This isn’t where she wants to put her mind. Her mind is with the art – so much detail, so difficult to describe. “Isn’t it nice here,” she asks, “at the museum?”
“Yes.” I kiss her forehead. She wants to hear that I can see the art, but I don’t understand until later, when I set these words down on the page.
My daughter is an artist. She is a storyteller and she is a little girl growing bigger by the day. Her world extends beyond our family now – she has her own friends, her own ideas, her own pursuits – which is why, I think, we’ve been out of synch. I don’t have the intimate knowledge of her life each day that I had when she was wee, and I don’t have the power to shape it. But I do have the power to share it with her, even in the evenings after the running and jumping and joking and writing and learning and painting is done.
She picks up the ketchup at dinner. We’re having burgers and tater tots with good friends. “Honey, really. No. You don’t need any more ketchup.”
“No, mom – look. Look at this,” she says, pointing to the blue writing on the plastic bottle. “’Find us on Facebook.’ Dude! Really?” She puts it back on the table, shaking her head in dismay.
Dude, she said. Facebook. Really? Feeling like the lady in old-fashioned clothes on the mythical museum wall, I shake my own head in dismay. Really? What century do we live in now, and who is this child with her teenage words?
But I know.
She is mine and I am hers, and we are still – along with parents and kids the world over – finding our way through the Mami and Me Museum, where everyone (everywhere) grows older by the day.
Whether we like it or not.