I come home from work with a surprise in my hand. The new Elmo’s World DVD had been leaning against the door when I pulled up.
“Brookey Baby,” I sing-song as I walk in the door, “I have a surprise for you!”
“You do?” she answers.
“Yup, I do.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a surprise!”
“I really, really love it!” she replies with scripted enthusiasm.
I laugh. “You don’t know what it is yet, silly. How do you know you love it? What if it’s a stinky surprise? What if it’s, oh, say .. poop?”
She laughs. The word gets her every time. “That would be stinky.”
“Right. So let’s see what it is.”
I rip open the top of the mailer, then hand it to her. She reaches in, pulls out the DVD and gasps.
“I really, really love it!” I ignore the fact that the words carry the exact same inflection as they did before she knew what it was. Not the point. And I know she really does love it.
She must have seen a preview for Elmo’s World – Food, Water and Exercise because she’d gotten in her head that she absolutely, positively had to have it. We’d scoured the local video store and two really big toy stores to no avail before resorting to the Internet. $3.99 and two days later, my girl has her DVD. She is hugging it to her chest as she spins.
“Can I watch it?” she asks. God, how I love listening to her use words. I swear, I’ll never tire of spontaneous, functional speech. Ever.
“Sure, love,” I say. “You start to watch it and I’ll change my clothes and then join you, ok?”
She doesn’t answer. She’s already half-way up the stairs.
I come down a few minutes later to find her completely engrossed in the video. I’ve learned to play these scenes carefully (ed note: please click on the words in blue to read one of my favorite posts on the topic). When she’s in Elmo’s World (or Godspell Land or Terra de Dora or well, anywhere but here) it can be nearly impossible to break in.
I’ve learned to subconsciously remind myself that it has nothing to do with me. It’s become an automatic exercise. One that doesn’t always work, but I try. I remind myself that my girl’s needs are sometimes (often) vastly different than mine. That she may not be able to handle affection in the moment. That it’s ok if she can’t. That I can’t walk away hurt when she gives me the Heisman. That she will let me in when she’s ready – and able.
I walk over to the couch and hover momentarily, gauging her reaction. There is none, so I sit a small distance away.
Without a word, she picks my arm up and moves it out of her way. She climbs into my lap and curls into me, nuzzling the back of her head into my chest. She pulls both of my arms back around her into a tight squeeze. My hands land on her tummy.
I am in heaven, holding my girl, resting my cheek on her head and my hands on the soft, exposed skin of her belly.
I can’t see her face. We don’t talk. She nervously shushes me the first time I answer Elmo’s request for information. My role is clear.
I’m in – on her terms.
As cavalier as I may try to be (an act that I’m sure no one buys anyway), in this moment, that’s enough.
In fact, it’s everything.