“Can’t you put a brick on her head?” my dad asked this week. To keep her from growing. My daughter.
My parents said this about me daily for years. “Can’t we put a brick on her head?” It wasn’t meant to be harsh. It was a statement of desire. Of longing. Of loss. Time moves so quickly that I suppose by now I’ve grown tall. I don’t know. Would 5’6″ be considered tall?
Friday night, my daughter attended her first sleepover party. No cousins, no parents, no muss, no fuss. We arrived at the house, she handed her gift to the parental host, scampered downstairs to a room decorated in balloons, and was immediately invited to dance with her giggly friends. “Bye, Mom!” she said to us both – my partner and I – dismissing us with hardly a glance. We were clearly free to head back upstairs. And out the front door.
Saturday night, she opened a book on African-American heritage and asked me about the Amistad. We discussed slave ships for the first time. And what it means to revolt. I didn’t offer any full color descriptions, but she understood enough. Kidnapping. Water. Darkness. No chance of escape. Swords. Attack. Death. None of it okay, but all of it true. She’s beginning to see how life sometimes goes far beyond unfair.
“What am I, Mami?” she asked as we read.
“Do you mean, are you Black?” I asked.
She shook her head as if I should know better by now and said, “No, Mami, I mean what AM I? What do you call it?”
“Latina. Native American. Guatemalan. Mayan.” Trying to break it down, going through the words we’ve been using for years.
“You mean mixed?” I could see she was having these conversations now with people other than me.
“No, not really. Native American – more specifically Mayan. Latina – more specifically Guatemalan.”
“Oh.” I knew I was fumbling, and she didn’t fully understand. She is so many things. Someday, she’ll have enough information to define herself. Until then, we’ll search together for the right words.
Sunday night, she opened “The Polar Express” and declared that Santa wasn’t real. Are you serious, Child? We chatted a long time about that. Finally she said, “I want you to tell me the TRUTH, Mami.” She agreed not to announce it over the loudspeaker in Target or spill the beans with all her friends, some of whom certainly hold a different opinion on the matter.
Can we just cut out paper dolls for a minute, please?
Now she wants to go back and inventory every Santa gift she’s ever received. “Who gave me that?” she wants to know. “Was it you? Was it Mama? This was really from Grandma, wasn’t it?”
Monday morning, she asked me, “Who made up Santa?” followed quickly by “When were the first babies born?” I hadn’t been awake ten minutes. I was still in the shower. Without coffee. In other words, I was not at my best.
By 8:15 a.m., I am walking with purpose through the main part of my office, in search of a colleague with kids older than mine. I do, after all, work for a non-profit that’s all about moms and babies, families and communities, parenting, modeling, finding power and offering support. Every single colleague with kids older than mine is gone. Busy. Out of the office. Vacationing or holding meetings off-site. The nerve.
So Monday night, I eat three ice cream bars. They help me think. They calm me down.
And now my daughter wants me to explain what I mean by the word, “Mature.”
Eating three ice cream bars at one time? That’s not it.
I don’t know, honey, but you’re figuring it out. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Growing. Just keep being who you are.