Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Milestone

Against my will, I took Em for the Big Thanksgiving Shopping Expedition to the supermarket on Sunday morning. And something absolutely amazing happened while we were there: She helped me. Not just helped; she made the shopping go more quickly. She went running to the baking aisle while I picked out brussels sprouts; she went over to get the butter while I pulled milk off the shelf. She helped me dig through the turkeys, looking for one big enough to feed the 11 people descending on my house on Thursday and to leave sufficient leftovers to satisfy Baroy, who lives only for cold turkey sandwiches.

It was the most wonderful shopping trip I've ever taken, bar none.

If you aren't a parent, you're looking at me with your head cocked to one side, trying to figure out what the hell I'm talking about. If you're a parent only of children under the age of eight, you're assuming I'm joking. But I'm here to tell you: that Promised Land you hear so much about, the one where your children make life easier for you on occasion? It exists. And it's just as wonderful as you think it will be.

I know. It's not going to last. But I'm going to enjoy it while I'm here.

In some ways, it seems like she's growing up way too quickly of late. She's started averting her head when I kiss her, so that kisses land on her forehead rather than her lips. That's fine with me, to be honest, but it doesn't mean I don't tease her about it.

Recently, we switched chores around the house, and I gave Em the task of clearing off and wiping down the bathroom sink and counter every couple of days. Knowing that she would probably let too many days go by, I told her that if I noticed it becoming dirty in there, I'd remind her to do her job. She was fine with that.

And so, last week, I left a post-it on the bathroom sink: "Clean me!" it said. "Love, The Sink"

I thought it would make Em crack up, but instead, she came to me and asked me, all seriousness, to please not leave her such baby notes, that just saying, "Please clean the sink" would make the point.

"I was just trying to keep it fun," I said.

Today, the sink was messy again. I decided that I wasn't going to let a 9-year-old take all the fun out of my life, and left another note. "Help me! I'm getting dirty!" it said.

When I was leaving her room a few minutes ago, after we'd done some reading together and talked for a few minutes, Em called me back. "Oh, by the way," she said. "It's OK if you leave those funny notes for me in the bathroom. I think I kind of like them now."

Thank goodness. I'd hate to think she'd out-matured me before she'd hit double digits.

Truly, in these and many other ways, Em is an absolute pleasure these days. To be honest, she's been an absolute pleasure for several years now, but it keeps getting better.

When Em was an infant, my friend C came to visit with her infant son, her 5-year-old son, and her 10-year-old daughter, Sam. After the little ones were put to bed, C sat with me on my couch, and we talked. Throughout our conversation, Sam lay curled up between us, her head on C's lap, C playing with her hair, absolutely quiet, just enjoying time with her mom.

That has stuck with me over the past nine years, and I'm neither lying nor exaggerating when I say that a huge number of my parenting choices have been made based entirely on the fact that what I wanted was that precise kind of relationship with my daughter: trusting, close, comfortable.

Not so long ago, a friend of Em's told her something in confidence about some stuff she thinks her brother might be getting up to. Em relayed the story to me. I pointed out that perhaps her friend didn't want her to tell me such things. "But Mom," she said, dismissing my fears, "all my friends know that you and I tell each other everything. I'm sure they know that when they say not to tell anyone, it doesn't mean you."

That couldn't have been any more satisfying a moment if she had climbed onto the couch next to me and put her head in my lap for me so I could play with her hair.

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