Mama, was I wish you once made?
Yes, my baby.
Was I wish on a star or on a dandelion?
You were every wish I ever made on anything I could wish upon.
Was I born a fairy or a girl?
A fairy, my angel, with little invisible wings. Your fairy power is to make everything bright and lovely. You do that by being exactly who you are.
Yes, my baby.
Yes, my love.
Can we pray to the angels?
Yes, my love. What would you like to pray?
I want to pray that I am kind to my friends and my friends are kind to me.
That is a lovely prayer.
Well, can we pray it?
You just did pray it.
She hands me a drawing and runs off with her yoga mat. She giggles with her friends, and finds her shoes. I glance at the paper, and it is a tree. Not just a tree, but a tree with stars and the word "love" written across every branch. It has hearts and a squirrel climbing the tree. It says, "I love you." and then her name. The drawing looks like a heart exploding with love.
"It is a tree growing love." The yoga teacher explains to me.
"That is beautiful." I'm prone to emoting these days. I hide it behind fidgeting, but I get choked up.
"I told them to draw a seed, " the teacher points to a heart drawn at the bottom of the trunk. "Then they were supposed to draw the tree from it. She wanted her tree to grow love."
"Exactly, WOW. She is such a cool little person. She did that all by herself. I did not prompt her to draw love."
I don't know what to say. I am verklempt. I am proud, amazed at how much she has to teach me every day. I have no right to be proud; she does not belong to me, but I'm proud nonetheless. I wonder some days, when hits and kicks are exchanged and toys are begged for and extra candy stolen, if my compassion-nagging works, if my focus on our highest self, on banishing materialism, on other people, on love is sinking in. I wonder if I am doing anything positive here by staying home. I know the children are safe, but am I showing them every possibility a woman has? Or just one traditional role?
My daughter is a heart. A pumping, beating, lovely heart of a girl I am privileged to parent. And this little crayon picture humbles me. My best self wants to grow love. If my yoga teacher asked me to finish the sentence, "My tree grows..." My seed might look like God, and my tree compassion. Those things are intangible, un-drawable. Unable to be articulated nor drawn, and if pushed further, perhaps I would have drawn a tree sprouting love too. My best self likes to think so.
There are days I feel so alone on the Island of Kid. I woke up this morning, for instance, and watched the Backyardigans before I realized that the kids had left the room. I was thinking about race and little creatures dancing together and what this show teaches kids. I sing songs, and tease them. Sometimes I lose my temper and say things like, "I am incredibly disappointed in this behavior." And then tsk, and wish that shame were not my go-to. I leave the laundry build up too long. I just really want to go to work some days. It's not that they are not lovely. Or that they are naughty children. They are lovely, and very well-behaved children. It is just that I don't always like who I am--my lack of patience, my selfishness, my extreme introversion. Some days, I just want a nap. I don't like what being home alone all day brings out of me--not every day, or every week, even. But when I get stuck in my head, or I feel busy and bored, and I grumble and growl at the kidlets, I wonder if my being home helps anyone. Some days, I just don't want to think in pink and light blue and clean-up songs or read the same book a thousand times or talk about unicorns and fire trucks. I don't want to decide breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks for myself, let alone three other people and a dog. Those days are much fewer than I imagined before babies, but they come. The guilt comes with it. Because I know this is a choice for us that few families get to make, and Lucia's death makes their living so precious and not taken for granted.
But when she brings me a picture of a tree blossoming love, I know she is bringing me this self-portrait we painted together. The picture of what my parenting is about--the principles we want to bestow upon our children. Choose love, I whisper for five years, little niggling pushes toward compassion. She translated those whispers into prayers. She asked for help with the love and friendship. That is a gift I wanted to give my children--knowing her limitations, asking for help, turning control over. It is a skill I am only now learning. I still find it immensely difficult to ask for help, even as I preach it to my children. But the truth is (and I am sharing it sheepishly with you) this picture answered my desperate prayer:
Show me my path, please. Help me understand how to parent these babies in a way that is best for their souls. Help me be the best mother I can be. Help me understand what I am doing right, not just wrong.
Thank you, Daughter.