The room is quiet save the burble and hum of the nearby humidifier. I’m idly listening to an audiobook while methodically, mindlessly rubbing my second born’s back. From the still of her body and the heaviness of her breath, I assume she’s fallen asleep. I ready myself to lurch and pull my heavy body from the floor, grateful that she’s resting and thus I too in return.
But I should know better. She who has had fitful sleep since the eve of her birth does not readily, easily, or willingly drift to slumber.
I pull the ear plugs from my ears and glance down at her, feeling the twinge of frustration that comes from craving time to oneself while facing the demands of more pressing responsibility.
I have to tell you something so important… I don’t know what I am going to do when I grow up. I don’t know what I want. I won’t know where to drive. I won’t know what to do. How am I going to know?
This four-year old who dwells in the mind of an adult. She who lies awake with thoughts reeling, considering the gnawing worries and concerns of a soul much older than her own. The thing is, I’m 28 years older than her, and I have no idea either.
You don’t have to know, my love. You’re a kid. Let yourself be a kid. Go to sleep now. You don’t need to worry about that. Just close your eyes and rest and let mommy and daddy worry about being grown-ups right now.
I wish it were as simple as words. She is my thinker. My child wrapped up in her head, considering the world around her in ways far more complex and complicated than belies her age.
She has always been complicated. Fierce and strong one minute, and tender and fragile the next. Defiant and questioning. Never-taking our word at face value. Making her parents work for every request, every action, every gesture. She sees and questions the world around her in a way that makes parenting utterly maddening yet her character and the woman whom she will become powerful and wondrous.
While her older sister is undoubtedly a clever and smart child, I see in my second-born a depth of thought, a processing of the world, far more complex and challenging. I see the way she struggles to communicate the way that she feels and takes in all the information around her, and I know that is why she has always been our more “difficult” child. She carries the weight of the world far more heavily than her sister, and my heart aches to make her load lighter, yet I cannot control or change her thoughts. I can only try to alleviate her fears with comfort, and understanding, and if not understanding, openness. I can give her language and space to share and process.
Mommy, who will take care of the baby when you and daddy go to work? The baby can’t be all alone. She will be too little to be without her mommy and daddy.
When you have the baby, I want to go with you, because what if Momar and Doda, or Sharifa, or Justine, or Kimmy don’t know how to find you in the hospital? I have to make sure that you and the baby are okay.
I have something sad to tell you. I dreamed that Sunny died. And in my dream, I wasn’t sad. And that is terrible. Because I would be so sad if Sunny died. But in my dream I didn’t even cry. Why didn’t I cry?
When I die, just leave my body. I don’t want to be burned like T. And I don’t want to be buried like Zizi will. That is too scary. Just leave my body where it is. (This particular exchange left me in a puddle of tears, envisioning my 4-year old’s dead body and horrified that she thinks and worries about the state of her body when she dies. The death of her great-grandfather and the subsequent spreading of his ashes, and requests to understand what the ashes were, etc., etc. were undoubtedly a trigger for this line thinking, but her sister has never expressed similar depth of processing that renders fear in this way).
Are you sure you should be drinking that coffee? Because kids can’t have coffee and the baby is a kid, and the baby eats what you eat, and so I don’t think the baby should have coffee, which means you shouldn’t have coffee.
It’s exhausting. And overwhelming. For all of us. And yet I am awed to see the world through her eyes. And I know that if we can help her continue to process, and communicate, and share, she will be able to use that lens to have her own distinct impact on the world.
It’s what all parents are trying to do for their children.
While she demands it from me most acutely, it’s what I aim to do for all of my children; help them be both child and champion of their own unique minds.