Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sole Mate

I proudly hold the title of First Runner Up in the Most Popular Girl in my own home.  That’s not too shabby.  No one really needs to know that only two girls actually live there.

I'm more of a first-runner up sash kind of girl than a crown-wearing winner, anyway.

I concede defeat.  Sassy little 3-year old Madeline is by far the coolest girl in the house.  She just gave me hugs and told me that I was the "most beautifulish mom in Pennsylvania", so I'm willing to go on record as saying that she's the coolest little girl in the whole.wide.world.  

Considering that one of my favorite recreational activities is proclaiming Madeline’s wondrousness from every countertop, time-out step and rooftop in the metropolitan Philadelphia area, I should have previously considered that a non-relative might also find her to be wondrous as well.

This is all an unnecessarily verbose way of saying that my tomboy princess has a boyfriend.  His name is Drew.  I’m sure Boyfriend Drew is a sweet, charming and appealing young lad, but no matter.  I hate everything about Boyfriend Drew.  

I was hoping that we’d at least make it to first grade before boyfriends entered the picture.

I’m soooooooooo not ready for this.

Madeline sprung the existence of her beloved on me in the same place where we typically have our most robust woman-to-woman chats--- the nail salon, over pedicures. 

I could attempt to justify the acceptability of recurring child pedicures by indicating that pedicures are our bonding ritual, but the fact of the matter is that I have the ugliest feet known to man and I’ve passed on the Fred Flintstone gene to the girl.  Our toes require regular attention as to not frighten people and domestic pets. 

Sadly, our ugly feet are just a fact of life, and neither feminism nor more conventional parenting practices can change it.  Plus, you know, we bond. 

Ironically, the Boyfriend Drew pedicure almost didn’t happen.  We had no imminent need to glamorize that particular day, but I soon learned that Madeline had other plans. 

I was retrieving her out of her car seat to feed her a nutritious lunch of Chick-Fil-A (at the special, one-of-a-kind, all-organic outlet that only exists near my house), when I noticed that Madeline had brought a pair of flip-flops along with the shoes that she was actually wearing.  Like any seemingly adequate parent would do, I asked her why the flip-flops were accompanying us for lunch.  It went a little something like this:

Madeline:  Mommmmmmmmy…..you need to wear flip-flops to pedicures or you jack up the polish while it’s wet.

Nicole:  But we’re not getting pedicures today.

Madeline:  Mommmmmmmy….but I always get my toes done on Fridays. 

Right.  We got pedicures immediately following our healthy and gourmet Chick-Fil-A lunch.

We were innocently selecting our polish colors when I became acutely aware of Drew’s impact.

It is important to note that the polish selection is a key component of our pedicure process.  Madeline and I apply a similar, and somewhat Darwinian approach, to selecting colors--- first we narrow down to the general hue that we’d like applied (typically garish purples for Madeline, and boring, old person neutrals for me), and then we rank the remaining shades by the best color name.  Only the strong survive.

For the unindoctrinated, nail polish color names are one of the few remaining mediums where wordplay reigns supreme.  I mean, seriously.   How more perfect could the names “Pinking Up The Pieces”, “Steel-ing The Scene”, or my personal favorite, “Sole Mate” be?  Yes, my favorite nail polish shade is “Sole Mate”.  Hopeless romantic---or at least I am when my 3 year old daughter is not involved.

In any event, Madeline’s selection veered away from the characteristic Barney-purples and into deep shades of red---a deviation that raised my eyebrows.  I was about to ask her about the somewhat astonishing change when she dropped the bomb.

Mommy, Drew really likes red.

I responded, “Well, red’s a nice color, but who the hell is Drew?”  (okay, so the “the hell” part stayed in my head.  But I wondered.)

She got a faraway look in her eyes, as she responded “Mommy, Drew’s my boyfriend, silly.”

Initially, I was nonplussed with the concept of a boyfriend.  She’s a tomboy and her two favorite playmates are little boys named Mason and Timmy, with whom she has spent countless hours playing trains, rolling in the dirt, and my favorite, lets-see-how-quickly-we-can-transform-the-entire-downstairs-into-a-complete-shithole.

I quickly followed up with “So, Drew is your friend who is a boy, just like Mason and Timmy, right?” only to be brutally rebuffed with “No, Mommmmmmmmmy.  Mason and Timmy are my buddies.  Drew is my boyfriend,” complete with that faraway look.  Again.

A few thoughts crossed my mind:

  1. You are so completely and unequivocally $()#$*()@#$*()@#$(*@#$.
  2. Poor Mason and Timmy- they’ve been relegated to the dreaded “Friend Zone”- the veritable No Man’s Land for potential suitors. Poor kids. 
  3. I hate Boyfriend Drew.  I reallyreallyreally hate Boyfriend Drew.
  4. There is no way that Boyfriend Drew is good enough for my Madeline.
  5. Too soon.  TOO SOON!  Not yet.  NOT YET!

As Madeline and I sat side-by-side in pedicure chairs, she debriefed me on all things Boyfriend Drew.  It turns out that Boyfriend Drew likes dinosaurs (most notably T-Rex), the color red, chocolate cupcakes but vanilla ice cream.  Drew pushes her on the swings at recess, counts first when they play hide and seek, and presents her with bouquets of Play-Doh eels.

And they said chivalry was dead.

While Madeline appreciates the eel bouquets and being the first “hider” in a rousing game of hide and seek, she does not yet share Drew’s passion for dinosaurs.  In fact, she shared this nugget with respect to the dinosaurs:

Drew likes dinosaurs, but I think they’re boring.  Do boys always like dumb things?

Ummmm, yes, sweetheart.   Boys often do like dumb, boring things.  This is a life lesson that is best learned early. 


Upon further investigation, Boyfriend Drew doesn’t sound so bad---but I still hate him and want him nowhere near my daughter.   I’m sure I sound like a maniacal and overprotective parent (and that is largely true), but….this angst isn’t about Boyfriend Drew.  Boyfriend Drew is simply the catalyst.

This angst is about me.  This angst is about Madeline.  This angst is about us.  This angst is about where and when, from this point forward, our paths will converge and diverge and run parallel. 

This is entirely about and my little buddy---and the innumerable ways by which our interrelated but still completely unique stories form and reform in the coming years. 

We’re growing up, Madeline and me.  Growing individually. Growing together.  Growing collectively.  Growing apart.  Growing over pedicures and fast food and woman-to-woman chats and more pedicures.

Sole mates.

This growing up, process, though.  It scares the hell out of me.

As a parent, I’m intensely aware that she’s not mine as much as she is on loan to me.  I’d just really like for this loan to take the form of a long-term lease.   I know she can’t stay little forever, but I still want her to stay little—and innocent—for a while longer. 

Life with a small child means that days are long, but the years are short.  We started completely connected- wound together—and the process that follows is one that continually unwinds what once bound us.   We began with her needing me for virtually everything….and now she depends on me incrementally less with each passing day.  Some day, she might not need me at all.

OMG.  Some day, she might not need me at all.

Right now, she looks at me in wonder.  Right now, she looks at me like I am Christmas, her birthday, and Rapunzel rolled into one perfect package.  Right now, she looks at me like I have all the answers and that I can swoop in and solve every problem that crosses her path.

Someday, in the not too distant future, she will realize that I am somewhat tarnished.  And then, someday, she will realize that I don’t have all the answers and that I can only solve some problems.  Then, someday, she will regard me as being the problem.

Please excuse me as my heart breaks.  Just a little.

And, this is the easy part.  This is the part that is about me.  The important part is about her.  Despite my trepidation about her growing up, I don’t want to impede her growth process in any way.  To the contrary, I want her to grow up and have a big and extraordinary life in the way that she defines it.

I want her to grow up with the freedom to make her own choices, to defend her own beliefs and to make her own mistakes.  Gradually.

I want her to figure out who she is and to do it with honor. 

I want her to experience at least some of this growth without the complicating factor of the boys who, if introduced too early, can cloud her judgment and cause her to shape who she is based on their perceptions instead of her own.

I want her to experience relationships while minimizing the baggage that is associated with them.

I want to keep her little heart whole and unbroken----as long as I possibly can.  Right now, her little heart is open, honest and completely undamaged by the world around her.  With each boy that crosses her path, her little heart will grow and expand---and develop some wear and tear.  Her little heart will break and heal---of this, I am assured---but with each break, some scar tissue will form. 

I just want to keep that beautiful little heart in its pristine condition. 

I want her to believe, for as long as she can, that the world is exciting, people are good and hurt is temporary. 

I want to delay that moment when her heart begins to close off in fear of the world around her and the people who fill it.

I want her to believe, for quite some time, that there’s not much that some Oreos, a pedicure, and old mom can’t fix.

I’m learning to navigate the dance of parenthood.  I’m learning to coordinate when to pull in the reigns, and when to let them go.  At this moment, I’m going to let go of the reigns….just a little bit.

So, Boyfriend Drew, please take good care of my little girl.  If you hurt her in any way, I will break all of your dinosaur figurines and make it look like an accident.  She can be your girlfriend. But, Boyfriend Drew, heed this warning.  She can be your girlfriend…but, until further notice, she’s my sole mate.

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