I slide the driver’s seat back so I have room to pull my knee toward me. I slip on my stilettos and lace them up. Around my ankle a couple times and a quick knot at the front. I’ve been interviewing (at least once a week) for the past few weeks. I’m tired of repeating the same mantra, talking myself up, answering questions like “What’s your greatest weakness?” And thinking up ways to make a strong quality sound like a weak one. I’m over it. I get out of the car and open the door for her. A blue “dress” that reads “BEST DAY EVER,” in gold print. One that looks more and more like a tunic as her legs and arms continue stretch north and south, east and west. Black leggings with tiny cat faces, gold and white. Minutes ago, she’d pointed out (with pride) how the dress and leggings matched because of the gold feature on both. I laughed. She wasn’t… wrong. I ask her to hold my phone and wallet while I snap the buttons at my wrists before we walk into Vons. She does. As we’re walking through the frozen food section, she looks down at my tan stilettos and then scans my black jumpsuit from bottom to top.
“Mama, you look so pretty with those boots and those pants! You’re not wearing a dress,” this is huge, “but you look so pretty!”
I die. The end.
Just kidding. But honestly, I wanted to. She notices everything. She says everything on her mind. She asks questions like “How do we talk?” As in, how do our voices work? She will sit for an hour straight putting together a bag of mixed up puzzles (5 in all) and then mix them up to do it again. She’s determined! She learned how to snap and whistle within a 2 week span and despite moments of frustration, she practiced until she got it. I know adults (my 80 year old Grandy) who never learned to whistle. She knows the names of 20+ kids at her school, most of whom aren’t in her class. Everyone wants to be her friend. Parents come up to her (not even me) at events and say “Ahhh… so YOU’RE Cadence!” She wants to be known as fair and kind. She’s learning to stop and correct herself to say “Yes, Mama” even when she really wants to say “Ugh, I know!” because she’s beginning to understand what respect means. She’s witty and silly and when she gets a joke, she laughs and repeats back the punchline and dammit, it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard!!
I love her like crazy. And I can’t even fathom why her love is so crazy for me. She thinks I’m beautiful. 100 men could never give me the feeling she does when she says it. Because she wants nothing… and everything from me. How is it that this 4-year-old wields this much power in such a fraction of a lifetime?? It blows me away. Sometimes I wonder if I feel this way because she’s my child, but I’ve met other kids. There’s no WAY they’re as enigmatic as she is. No freaking WAY. I mean, don’t get me wrong. The questions and the talking and the tantrums and the endless hunger and the talking!!!! It’s a lot. But watching her grow into this dope little human being is literally everything.
I did that.
I mean, her daddy helps/ed, but she’s basically me. Except, she’s me, now. Lol. It took me a LOT longer to wield that power and not apologize for it. I’m so thankful that her daddy and I and Jesus (thank you, Jesus) give her the space to be who she is, even as she continues to grow and learn. It’s challenging though. If you have a strong-willed enigma, you know what I’m saying. It’s so important to me not to crush her. To not allow my strong will and pride, drown out her identity in the name of being the parent. Some of us have heard that phrase “I’m not your little friend!” And while I’d never stand for disrespect, I want her to come into her own, knowing her power and understanding how gentleness plays such a significant role in that. You can’t raise a feminist who will be a powerhouse for change, without teaching her how to embrace equality AND femininity. The softness of it, the nurturing, the kindness.
She’s only 4… but somehow she gets it. And I get to be her mama.