August 1, 2010

Will You Be Sad When I Grow Up?

She did it again.

My daughter, my uncomparable joy... made my world stand still for a moment...

With her words, with her sweet heart, with her amazing combination of innocence and maturity.

Tonight, after the bedtime stories, she started her usual routime of nonstop chatter and questions.

"Tell me about when I was a baby," she says to me. "And then tell me about when Daniel was a baby."

They have become every-night requests. I tell her about the day she was born, about driving to the hospital early in the morning, about being hooked up to the monitors so that the doctor would know that her heart wasn't beating too fast or too slow--something she finds quite fascinating.

I tell her how her father and I waited all day in a special hospital room--waiting and waiting for her to decide she was ready to start her new life in this world. I tell her how when she finally decided she was ready, she practically burst right into that room. The doctor caught her and held her up for me to see.

"She is a girl," he announced.

Just as I had known, I tell her, because, dear Olivia, I just knew your were going to be a girl, just like I knew Daniel was going to be a boy. (And that is no lie. Even though I had decided during both pregnancies that I did not want to know about gender, I knew. I can't explain how or why, but it was more than a feeling. It was a certainty.)

And then I tell her how she opened just one eye, and scrunched up her face in a great big scowl... how she looked all the way across the room with her one open eye--taking everything in. And then she looked all the way back across the room. And then....

She closed that eye, opened up her mouth and let out one very angry yell.

THAT is her favorite part of the story.

I tell her how the doctor wrapped her up in a blanket and handed her to me, and then I tell her what I said.

"Hello there, sweet baby. Oh, how I am so happy to finally see you."

And she stopped hollering.

(I don't tell Olivia the other words I said to her in that moment: Oh, baby, have there been a lot of people worried about you. You had us so very scared.. I can tell her about all of that--the multiple ultrasounds, the delivery being moved to a high-level NICU, the stress, worry and uncertainty--some other time, many years down the road.)

The story varies a bit each time I tell it. Sometimes she wants to know the doctor's name. Sometimes she asks how big she was. Sometimes she wants to know about the day she came home from the hospital, and about how Daniel came to see her the morning after she was born. She likes to hear about the day Daniel was born, too, about how I had to work so much harder to get him to come into this world, almost as if he were dreading what he'd find. She likes to hear about how one of her first words was "Dan-ya" and how she would scream it as she chased her brother around the house, as fast as her little legs would carry her.

I am not sure why Olivia has this desire to so frequently hear about her birth and baby days. She is delighted by it all. I don't mind telling her about it, as often as she wants to hear it, even though it fills my heart with a certain degree of sadness. Sadness, because her life is so much more complicated than I ever expected it could be... because she is living in a home with only one parent... because all the dreams I had for what life would be like for me and my young children have had to be scrapped and reworked. BUT the story also reminds me of that moment when I first held her in my arms--one of the two best moments of my life.

So, finally, here is what my daughter did tonight that surprised me so. She took me on a completely unexpected path, and made me think again about how very much she has had to deal with in her less than five-years. This was our conversation:

Mama, will you be sad when I grow up?

Well, yes, Olivia, a little bit.

I will just have to live really close to you.

Sure, Olivia, you could live really close to me. I would like that. And you know, Olivia, you can live with me for as long as you want, right?

Maybe I'll just live with you forever, Mama.

(Oh, how very sweet, I think. How darling. But even though I am taken away by the tenderness of the moment, I also think that her words are probably similar to what many typical young children say to their parents. And then I am frozen by what comes next.)

And I could help you make Daniel talk.

(There was no holding back the tears. I hate for Olivia to see me cry. It has been unavoidable on occasion during the past year, but I try so hard to keep my tears from her. I simply couldn't do it this time. They came like a rainstorm. And I tried to find something meaningful to say.)

Olivia, there are going to be so many different things you might want to do when you grow up. You might want to be a famous dancer and dance on stages all over the world in front of cheering crowds. You might want to be a veterinarian and take care of sick animals or you might want to be the person who feeds all of the animals at the zoo. You might want to be a teacher just like all the teachers you love so much at school. Or you might want to be a police officer or a singer or a painter.

There are all kinds of different things you might want to do as a grown-up Olivia, and you are smart enough to do whatever you want. I want you to do whatever it is that makes you happy.

But I sure do love how you worry about your brother.

(She stared intently as she watched me cry but didn't ask about the tears. Instead, she rested her head on my chest.)

Mama, can we snuggle?

Olivia, I'd love to.


  1. Thx for making me cry already...Hope all is okay...miss u @ therapy...

  2. Thanks, Carla. I miss you, too!!!