I’m staring off at the pine needles from our newly purchased Christmas tree, and the moon sand from our old-ly purchased sand collection…both are all over the rug due to a crazy, crazy afternoon with my daughter…the vacuum is too tired to work today, but we had a lot of fun.
My daughter is asking me why I am no longer dating Greg (who I once dated) instead of J., who I am now dating. It seems J. has made her grumpy. Why? Because he told her to stop doing something, she didn’t listen, and, as luck would have it, she got hurt. And she really wants me to focus on *something else*.
She is sitting with me on her bed, with a bag of frozen spinach on top of the very, very large bump on her head. Rewinding about twenty minutes, here’s what happened…J. told her to stop wiggling around in front of the TV (she was bumping into it with her crazy dance, shaking the entertainment center)…and low and behold, the one-of-a-kind, hand crafted decorative bowl that was at the top of my entertainment center (the one I got in Bologna…yes, the Bologna that’s in Italy)…fell down and walloped her head just before it shattered into a gazillion pieces. My daughter’s head is still in one piece, thank goodness. But she has the equivalent of a small plum popping out of the top now; it’s one heck of a giant lump, decorated with a blood stained cut right at the top. This could have been much worse; we were lucky.
One bag of frozen spinach on her head later, I am being quizzed about my dating choices by my eight-year-old. She doesn’t understand why I like him so much; and why Big Naana and Naani (my parents) like him so much; and why everybody likes him so much. What we are not talking about is the fact that she should have listened to what he said and neither her head nor my bowl would be injured.
As she sees it, Greg (my ex-boyfriend) always let her do what she wanted. He never told her no, never teased her. So why, she implores, would I have switched who I dated? Hmmm. Her deflection tactic is working because I can feel my focus shifting. Damn.
The truth is, Greg was very sweet, but he also never had any opinions to share about anything – and basically went along with everything I said. I felt suffocated, like I had a shadow waiting for me to make a decision about everything, from buttered vs. jellied toast to where to go for our vacations. The first three months of dating him were fun (i.e. “Oh how sweet, he really cares about what I want to do!”); the second three months were torture (i.e. “Have I acquired a second child? Grrr…!”). He was so syrupy nice, it took me that last three months to break up with him. But my problem at hand was how to answer my little stinker.
Dating as a single mom hasn’t exactly been easy for me. It’s been six years since my divorce. I have never let anyone come fully into my life, into my heart, they way J. is. He and I are perfect complements to each other. It feels so easy, so right to be together; and something is missing when we aren’t together. My daughter has noticed this shift. She wants to know how she fits in.
“Well, Honey. See, I love J. He’s nice and a lot of fun. And he plans a lot of fun stuff for us all to do together. Remember when I was dating Greg, I had to make all of the decisions and it was no fun for me? Remember how I said I felt like I just had more work to do?” She nodded in agreement.
“But he was nice to me. And J. is sometimes nice but sometimes he teases me. He doesn’t tease you. And if he did, you’d be telling Naani about it,” she adds, emphatically (I pause in amusement at her assumption that I would complain to my mother about my boyfriend teasing me). The little devil is so cute sometimes.
So, I go on to explain that J. teases her in a good-natured way, but it’s important that she listens when he tells her to stop doing something (i.e. case in point with the crazy-dancing-TV-bowl-incident). And I tell her to just speak up and tell J. when she feels she is getting too much teasing, because he will listen. Then I remind her how much he cares about her. We stare at each other, tired. It’s now an hour past bedtime.
I sigh and get up to tuck her in and kiss her. Then a little voice says, “Mommy, I’m really sorry I broke your bowl. And I do really like J.” I smile and say, “It’s ok Honey, I know you like him; want to go to Italy with me and get another bowl?” She smiles, nods and her lovely eyes close. Sometimes, it’s good to back off on the discipline and just listen.
Whew. I made it through another day in the life of an eight-year-old without being excused from my post as her mother.