The following is in keeping with a promise that I made on the day that I became a mother. With my newborn baby in my arms, I agreed that when the time came, I would tell my dad every last detail of stories like this one. Because, as he said “I deserve that, Jessie.”
Indeed you do, Dad.
Indeed you do.
Katie, by Katie
As I nudged Katie awake on Saturday morning, I told her that we needed to hustle in order to be out of the house on time for her sister’s ballet recital. We had a lot to manage, I explained. Grammy and Grandpa DD were with us. We had six people to get out the door. We couldn’t be late.
“This can’t be one of those mornings where you get lost, kiddo, okay?” I said. “I need you to stay on task so that we don’t end up with Mama getting frustrated and Daddy getting angry and then .. ”
“Mama,” she said, her voice still heavy with sleep, “why do you try to make it sound like you’re nicer than Daddy?”
Listen, kid, I’m just here to wake you up. This is not the time to go calling me on my sh-t.
I pretended to cough to buy some time.
She gave me the Nice try but I know you’re pretending to cough to buy some time stink eye.
I tried forcing my mouth to make words.
“Well … I … ya know … it’s just .. ”
She gave me the Oh, you are so busted stink eye (which, incidentally, looks a lot like the Nice try but I know you’re pretending to cough to buy some time stink eye, but not.)
With nowhere to hide, I persevered.
“Well, it’s just that he’s here every morning during the week trying to get you guys out the door and I know that sometimes he can get angry because …”
F Lee Bailey pounced.
“Because he’s …”
Jesus, tough room.
I dutifully finished the sentence.
“Because he’s … frustrated.”
“Right,” she said. “Soooooo …”
I looked at her. The coughing thing hadn’t worked. Stuttering brought no mercy. I wasn’t sure what else I had up my sleeve. I could pretend to faint, but that might actually scare her. I blinked.
“Soooooooo … ,” she began again. “Why is it that you try to make it sound like you’re nicer than Daddy?”
I smiled despite myself. This was all my fault, after all. Because this is what happens when you raise a child in a home that has no tolerance for anything less than down-to-the-bone authenticity. A place where pretense has no half-life. And where a sister learns early that words are not only not the only method of communication, but often the least reliable. You get a kid who doesn’t buy your crap.
“Fine,” I said, “Because it’s human nature to want to make yourself sound nicer than someone else.”
She smiled up at me, savoring her triumph.
“And that,” she said, as she finally pulled the covers down and made a move to get the day started, “was what I was looking for.”
I put up a hand for a high-five, which she gleefully proffered.
“Well played kid,” I said.