On the Passage of Time
I have a 3 year old now. Three. She can count to three. She can count to 20. She can count. She’s a human, no longer some larvae I slug around to various Paneras in search of unburnt coffee. She is alive.
It’s strange. I never thought I’d have so much control and authority over another person. Granted, she is a person and has her own opinions, but Mom Giveth and Mom Taketh away. Denying her access to gummy bears is usually enough to motivate her to my will. But what do I do with these powers? I ask of her that she brushes her teeth, picks up her toys, puts on her clothes or at least goes limp so I can manage these things for her. It sickens me to think that some people take advantage of this power in the most frightening ways possible. I really need to not read the news anymore. If I have to hear about one more parent being imprisoned for the unspeakable things they do to their children, I may have to become some kind of vigilante who stalks terrible parents at night and puts them out of their children’s misery.
Sorry for the negative twist. Being a mom is hard – not just for all the obvious reasons. It’s hard to imagine the worst and hope for the best sometimes. I keep thinking about all the things I’m going to have to explain to her. Things like, you know that chicken noise you make? Bawk bawk? Those adorable cheeping peeps that you watch on youtube hopping around being cute? That’s what’s in those nuggets. We murder them, then you eat them so you can grow a little. Mr. Rogers is dead. His wisdom and gentleness are dead, and will never come back. He does live on in the hundreds of wonderful episodes he’s left behind – but the concept of the finality of death is hard enough to grasp as an adult. When I have to explain this to my kid, I’ll be taking away a little more of her innocence and replacing it with bitter truths.
The other day she was flopping around on her bed being adorable, when she lay perfectly still, eyes pointing at the ceiling, unmoving, unblinking. She said in a low voice, “I’m dead.” Internally I panicked. Not because I thought she was really dead, though for a moment there it fluttered into view, but because she said the word. Dead. She mimicked a dead person. She did it well, despite the breathing and talking.
At that moment, the world crashed down around me. I thought, “she knows.” The truth is she doesn’t know. Dead to her is a phase someone can pop in and out of at will. A moment of quiet where you come popping back up happily and startle your unsuspecting playmates with zombie noises or screams. They scatter and run, full of life and happiness. I’m happy for her- that she doesn’t have this tidbit of information stored in her brain. She’s got another year maybe before she has to deal with the idea of her own mortality, or mine, or her fathers, or grammy’s. Soon it will be there, hanging over her head, altering her decisions, being a not-so-gentle reminder that words like “unsafe” and “careful” and “dangerous” were meant to warn her of the sudden stop at the end of the tracks and maybe extend them a little further.
I’m happy for her, and I’m sad for what is to come. I’m also envious that she doesn’t have that buffer of mortality that adults and older children must live with, although it probably makes roller coasters less exciting.
I apologize for the dark place I’ve taken this post to. It’s 7am and I’m waiting for her to wake on Easter morning. She’s going to search for eggs and eat too much candy, and I”ll be watching and enjoying and cleaning up – and maybe a little less morose for having written all of this down. Thanks for reading.