He really is pretty cute
It is the day before Katie’s birthday party. We are out running some last-minute errands. She is currently agonizing over which rubber duck is more suited to the beach theme of her party favors – the one with the surf board or the one with the sunglasses. Decisions, decisions.
I wander over to the Sesame Street aisle, wondering if perhaps they might have anything that I can use to create the cake for Brooke’s party, just three weeks after her sister’s. Katie walks up behind me, still clutching the two ducks.
“Mama, whatcha doin?”
“I’m just checking to see if they have any Elmo’s World stuff. Brooke has decided that’s what she wants on her birthday cake, so I’m just looking to see what they’ve got.”
She turns to face me. I know what’s coming. The Look. The one that slips out when her guard is down. The one filled with desperate panic. The one that says, Please don’t do this. The one that says, This is SO embarrassing.
“For her cake at home?” she asks, clearly hoping that it’s not what she thinks it is.
A few weeks back, Brooke announced that she wanted the Teletubbies on her cake. And I may have kind of sort of panicked a little. And I may have kind of sort of suggested that perhaps she could have her Teletubbies cake for her made up on the spot ‘special birthday dinner at home’ and then wouldn’t it be fun to choose something else for her party cake that her friends might like too?
In other words, I thought, I’m all for letting my kid be who she is, but I’d also rather not send her off to school with a Kick Me sign on her back.
So I asked her if she’d like to have a second cake. And she was all for it.
“I would have the Teletubbies at home,” she said. “And Elmo’s World with my friends.”
Yup. Steinbeck said it – the best laid plans of mice, men – and bumbling mothers – do often go awry. Or actually Robert Burns said it. But he said it in Scottish so it sounded different. Wait, is Scottish a language? Scotch? Scot? Scotius? Oh for the love of all things holy – I screwed up, people.
I turn to Katie.
“Actually, baby, she’s going to have the Teletubbies at home. She wants Elmo for her party with the kids from school.”
“Mama,” she begins. Her eyes are huge, pleading. “She’s going to totally get made fun of. She’s turning NINE. Nine year old girls are not watching Elmo’s World.”
“Mama,” she says, clearly wondering if it’s really possible that I don’t remember ever being a kid and that I somehow don’t get this, “you know what I mean.”
I put my arm around her and squeeze.
“I do, sweet girl. And I thank you for being concerned about her. You’re a great sister. The best. But I had an epiphany.”
“A moment of clarity.”
“I had a realization, baby. And what I realized was this: These kids know Brooke. They really know her. They know who she is and they know what she likes. They spend more time with her during the day than we do.”
She scrunches her nose as she does the math. “Wow, really?”
“Yup. Really. So for heaven’s sake, if they’re spending every dang day with her, do we really think that they’re going to be surprised that she wanted Elmo on her birthday cake?”
“And do you think they’ll really care that she wanted Elmo on her cake?”
“Right.” I pick up an Elmo figurine. “This is what makes her happy, baby girl.” I hold Elmo out to her. “This is who she is. And the kids that are coming to the party are going to come because they think that who she is is pretty neat – Elmo and all.”
“I’ll bet some of them would like to have Elmo on their cakes. I mean, he is pretty cute.”
When I don’t answer she looks up at my face.
“Oh geez, are you crying, Mama?”
I wipe my eyes with my sleeve and take a deep breath.
She rolls her eyes and laughs.
I kiss the top of my soon to be eleven year old’s head and tell her for the gazillionth time that I love her.
Then I put my arm around her shoulder and lead her back to the ducks.
She’s got some big decisions to make.