For some reason, people think I drink a lot and that my kids drive me batty. Maybe it’s my oft-dejected demeanor, stemming from trying to raise responsible people with manners and bladder control, only to have it all fall apart in a public space when one of them belches enormously and laughs hysterically, while another has damp pants. Maybe it’s the hopelessness that other parents recognize, knowing that raising children and herding cats probably are probably about the same experience in frustration. Or maybe people think this about me because I always say that my kids drive me batty and that I need a drink.
Whatever the reason, I feel I need to set the record straight. Do my kids drive me batty? Fo’ shizzle. Do I love them hopelessly? You know it. Do I often think they are delightful people who, in time, will likely grow up to become productive members of society? I do; I really do. Is who am I – not just the negative wine-guzzling side, but also the positive – a direct result of being their parent? Yes, inextricably. Is this an intensely complicated and emotional job? Ummm….does a bear crap in the woods?
I have been a fan of Erma Bombeck since I was a pre-teen. She was a parent of three and I, intensely ignorant of the subject matter at the time, rolled in hysterics at her descriptions of domestic servitude and parenting. Little did I know, little did I know…. One of my favorite pieces she wrote was love letters she wrote to each of her children, explaining why they were her favorite. She wrote to the oldest, “Dear firstborn, You’ve always been my favorite because...,” and then went on to describe why. Her letter to the second-born began, “Dear Middle Child, You’ve always been my favorite because...” And then there was the letter to the youngest: “Dear Baby, You’ve always been my favorite because…” It was a wonderful set of letters and moved me, even in the days when I had no kids, was a kid, and didn’t know beans about this domestic life I navigate daily.
A few days ago, Nadia did a series of things in a short period of time that I found to be absolutely enchanting. It caused me to sit down and iterate many of the reasons I find her to be so delightful, which reminded me of Erma’s letters to her kids. So, to combat the image I inspire of a drunken, frazzled mother, I was inspired to spend some time focusing on some of the wonderful qualities of the small people who drive me to madness.
Here is part one of four, dedicated to my second born.
I love you the most because you are a little girl with big imagination. You randomly do things like build a rocket ship out of a large styrofoam cup, install a bucket seat (a Dixie cup) and a seat belt (a stretchy bracelet), and send your duck to the moon. Recently, you had Duck participating in his own ultimate sport while rolling in a hamster ball down the driveway. I love that you’ve made Duck an adventure junkie.
I love you because of the funny things you say. You recently asked for if you could do something and I said, “Probably not, Nadia.” And you said, with bright eyes and an infectious smile, “So that’s a maybe?!?!?” Sometimes, you assume the role of the Queen of “What If?”
Nadia: “What if a hurricane and a tornado happened at the same time?”
me: “Nadia, I don’t think that’s possible.”
N: “But what if, Mama?”
me: “Even if it’s possible, I’m sure the statistical odds are so low that it’s not something you’ll ever have to worry about.”
N: “But what if it happened, and you were sitting on the toilet and only wearing one sock?”
me: (deep sigh)
I love you for your self-proclaimed “way with animals,” as you proclaimed to your brother once, as he was petting a kangaroo, “Liam! You don’t know what you’re doing! I have a way with animals, not you!!” You want a firefly as a pet. You recently spied a loose dog, which ended up in our backyard while we tried to find its home. In the hour or two we had the dog, you’d named it, fed it and worked on training it. I’ve seen you catch four butterflies at a time with one swoop of your net. You recently wrote an ode to Mr. Nut Nut, a squirrel you spied from afar, once, that you identified as your “best friend.”
I love you for your love of the natural world. You collect it in all forms and your room is a bone yard of rocks and feathers. On a first grade field trip to the zoo, you proclaimed (with lots of dramatic flair), “I FINALLY got to touch a REAL feather attached to a REAL peacock!” It was about the best day of your life (that week). One time, in your bed, I found a flamingo feather, a hawk feather, a peacock feather and some random, unidentified feathers. I have half-jokingly said, many times, if there’s another worldwide, avian-induced malady, there’s a good chance you will be identified as patient zero.
I love you because you’re full of kindness, but a firecracker when required. Recently, at a wave pool at a water park, you emerged from the pool with a two-year-old boy in a life jacket, who you had found alone in the wave pool. If someone or something needs help, it’s Nadia to the rescue; but if someone starts a fight, you won’t hesitate to fight back. You are small, but mighty.
I love you for the snapshots of childhood you burn in my memory. The other night you ran by at warp speed, shouting, “Flying toads!” You are startlingly fast. Your white hair floats around you like iridescence as you streak by.
I love you for your joy – that which fills you, and that which you spread to others.