As a reader and writer, I feel a bit bad that my kids can’t yet journal their lives. I know if I don’t write things down, I tend to forget them. Think of Poor Christina Crawford! Imagine all the counseling and regression therapy she must have needed to tap the source material for her memoir, to really remember the details of those wire-hanger moments with Mom. Because I am a better woman (I think) than Joan Crawford, I thought I’d do a little ghostwriting for my kids alongside my own entries for today — save them some future legwork, you know?
Ghostwriting for My Daughter, “E,” Age 5 Years
Today I got in trouble for not taking a bite of peanut sauce. We were at Aunt K’s and Aunt C’s house, and they’d ordered something called Tie Food. Mom said my dish was called chicken lollipops. It looked suspiciously like chewed meat on sticks to me. But did I complain? No. I ate it. But then Dad insisted I try the peanut sauce, too. (When will they learn that I am never going to love anything anyone tells me I’m going to love?) Mom got all bent out of shape and reminded me that I have to take one bite and then if I don’t like it, I can say no thank you. She said this like it was The Law. When I refused, I had to go upstairs. She said I had to think about it, that I couldn’t play up there and couldn’t come back down until I was ready to have my No Thank You Bite. I hate when she calls it that. It should be called a Forced Feeding. I held out for a whole 45 minutes, and then she came upstairs and tried to be nice, gave me some big lecture about how I can’t know what food’s going to taste like just by looking at it. I told her I don’t like sauces. She said gravy is a sauce. I told her I only like sauce that goes on potatoes. She said I could stay in the room until the next day if I liked, but that I was eventually going to get hungry, and the very next thing I would ever eat in my life WAS GOING TO BE THAT PEANUT SAUCE. Of course, I had to eat the peanut sauce. I licked a speck of it with the tippiest tip of my tongue, and she crossed her arms and rolled her eyes at my dad and insisted a lick isn’t a bite. God, she’s a control freak.
P.S. I figured out how to read today, all by myself!
Journal for Myself, Age Withheld
E figured out how to read! I am so proud of her! She read two First Reader books to me this afternoon, and I could see her eyes twinkling with pride as I turned each page. How did she figure it out on her own? I kept looking down at her little legs and grubby toes, at her lengthening fingers, and the licorice she was kneading like a stress ball as she sounded out the words, and I almost started to cry, it was so exciting. She looked so small and so big at the same time. I was just thinking last night how she seems to be growing out of something old and into something new I can’t quite identify. We’d been sleeping in the same bed, since we had a big family slumber party over at my sister’s. B was downstairs sleeping near his daddy. When I woke around 2 a.m., there was a wild and wonderful thunderstorm going and so many frogs singing in the prairie across the road. Our window was open, with the white curtains blowing and rustling. I can’t believe E slept through it. After I got up and shut the windows, I laid down and ran a hand over her hair, burning that moment into my memory: her small, warm legs next to mine, the peacefulness of her breathing, the way her cheeks still have a bit of baby roundness to them. I picked up her little fingers and stroked the backs of them. I kissed the fingernails and wove my own fingers into hers. I touched her freckled nose and felt the warmth of her brow. Then I took her close into my arms and fell back asleep. Who knew that I’d be waking up to a kid who is that much closer to being a big girl, a girl who can suddenly READ!?
Ghostwriting for My Son, “B,” Age 8 Months
Mom wouldn’t let me eat a Kong today. She also wouldn’t let me go up the stairs or pull on the skinny wooden dividers on Aunt K’s and Aunt C’s windows. She said they’d break. She is always worried something’s going to break. She also didn’t let me at the toilet. What’s breakable on the toilet? I was not allowed to eat several electronic devices or any of the books on the coffee table either. Why do they place these tasty-looking items where I can reach them? She must have stuck her salty finger in my mouth FIFTY TIMES today, which is how she managed to scoop loose a deliciously fuzzy yum-yum I had been enjoying and, later, a piece of cheese she herself had given to me, like, 15 minutes earlier. Indian giver!
P.S. I think I stood by myself today. Can’t be certain.
Journal for Myself, Age Withheld
B stood on his own today for a good 10 seconds! He’s going to be walking before we know it. I love to watch the look on his face when he realizes that nobody’s holding onto him, and that he’s not holding onto anyone or anything either. The concentration and delight in his eyes are just contagious. Whenever he’d start to teeter, one of us would catch him up under the arms, and that would send a fat little giggle up through his fat little body. He’s such a happy little guy. He’s also terribly curious, particularly about the bathroom. What is it about the toilet? I’m afraid he’s going to fall into that thing. And the mouthing! Aside from the fact that everything really does go into the mouth at this age, he’s constantly grinding his top two teeth against his bottom two teeth, so even when his mouth is empty, it looks like he’s chewing. I keep swiping out his mouth, just in case. Among other things I found in there today? A disgusting old matted wad of dog hair the size of a Tootsie Roll. Bleck.
It’s funny how I’m not as relaxed with this second baby as everyone said I’d be. I’m still a micromanaging worrywart. There’s just as much anxiety about his wellbeing, just as much worry-filled hope for him as I felt for his sister at this age. Today I stood with him by the back door and watched the rain falling. He was mashing his face to the glass, slapping at it, cooing at birds, and looking so entranced by the dribbles of water on the pane. That’s when I took a moment to really look at him, at his fat thighs sitting in my palms, and appreciate this little person to whom I am Mom. I brushed my lips along his cheek, and I remembered such tender moments with his sister, how I used to smell and smell and smell her in hopes that I’d forevermore be able to call up that scent, the feeling of her skin, the aching love for a vulnerable babe-in-arms. Which I can barely do, because every day with her is still full of more things I don’t want to forget. With them both, I keep trying to remember the Buddhist way: live in the moment. And you know what? My right now is pretty darn good.