ode to a 6-year old
7:12 am. We’re at the kitchen table, eating breakfast. Rose’s face clouds with panic. “I forgot about the 4 squares of chocolate!” She clanks down her oatmeal spoon, zooms her eyes into their widest setting. “Four squares of chocolate?” I ask, buying time, always buying time. Repeat question back to child, gain 1 more minute to rise to the surface of morning. “Yeh-hess. Every day me and Col get to eat 4 squares of our new chocolate bar. We decided.” Her face is a mask of fierce determination.”Honey, it’s 7:12 am, there’s still some time in the day for chocolate.”
I’m on a park date with Rose. The river runs below this park, beckoning for exploration and contemplative sitting. But there will be no quiet time by the river. No, it’s The Extreme Kindergarten Triathlon: swing, chase, tickle; repeat, repeat, repeat. I’m out of breath from a sincere effort to catch Rose’s slippery self as she careens through-up-down-in-around the toddler-sized equipment, giving new meaning to the phrase “head-banging.”
“Now push me sooooo high on the swings and then grab my feet.”
“Now chase me all around, anything red is base. When you catch me, you tickle me till I fall down.”
“Okay, here’s my baby (hands me a water bottle cradled inside a bike helmet), can you babysit her? I’m going off to write my column. I pumped some milk for her.”
Home. I toss myself onto the couch, sinking into the delicious flavor of non-moving while lustily eyeing up my book on the table. Rose grabs her neon-green jumprope and begins smacking bare feet on tile, fast: hop-pause-hoppity-hop-hop-pause-hoppity-pause-hop. It’s like tribal drums, like army boot camp, like a fierce and sparkly girl who never stops. She streaks like a comet through the ho hum-ness of our family, blowing the lid off our comfort zones, and blazing new trails, like, er fashion.
The glasses are a fashion statement, apparently.
“Wanna hear me speak Spanish?”
“This is actually called star dust tap-dancing, okay? Ready?”
“Guess how many times I can jump-rope in a row with my eyes closed!”
Sometimes I worry about this girl, this girl who samples the full range of emotional salad bar options daily; this girl whose wanting, expectations and preferences often eclipse the reality of what is. Sometimes everything that confounds me about her is everything that confounds me about myself. We stand opposite each other, defiantly, like some cliché about mothers and daughters and the button-pushing machine of this particular feminine lineage. The same fierceness that knocks me out daily, this fierceness I deeply admire, will lead her to brilliant and healing things. I know this.
I pick her up and whirl her in the air. Her jump-rope falls to the ground, her legs fly out like streamers. She shrieks, her smile opening the window of her face. Clouds of joy gather in my chest. We belong to each other. We need each other. And we’re both going to be just fine.
Happy 6th Birthday, Rose Raven. I love you more than all the tomato plants in the world.
Birthday breakfast: bacon and fruit topped with whipped cream. Oh yes.
PS: Rose, it was me who told all your friends that it was okay to give you experiences rather than things for your birthday. You’ll thank me someday.