The Princess Mask

My heart just stopped. 

          Good Morning Tuesday! How are you today? Did you get enough sleep? Any bad dreams? Here, at the CoupleDumb estate, sleepy time is cherished as the only time during the day where a person can concentrate for more than 30 seconds at a time. A parent does not require a manual to raise their child. However, they could definitely use an extra helping of sleep and patience. And still, everyday that goes by takes us closer to a day where our kids won’t be keeping us up or waking us up on a daily basis. That sounds like heaven for a moment and then the sting hits. Our babies are getting older.

          Lee says: The other day, we were getting in the car and I was watching Ricky, the 2 year old terror, getting in the van and then his car seat. He did this while talking to his brother and sister. With little effort. Paul stood behind me and as I turned I could see that he was watching Ricky too.

          Me: He’s getting so big.

          Paul: Yeah. (eyes got misty.)

          Me: You O.K.? (eyes getting misty)

          Paul: I’m fine. Pretty soon I won’t have to strap him in the car. That’s great.

          Me: Yeah, but pretty soon he won’t lay on you to sleep and call you Dada or come to you when he cries…

          Paul: Shut up and give me a tissue.

          Unlike Paul, I will admit I love it when my kids are still little enough to carry. I use to hold Jeannie every night before she went to sleep. She would hop in my arms and we would pray. Her little body would curl up into my chest and she would relax and drift off. We needed to stop this when her legs flopped off to one side. Bobby never was one to sleep on me but he loved (and still does) taking his nap in my bed which was so convenient when I was pregnant with Ricky.

          As our children grow, we go through an almost constant transition. With change, we experience micro-losses that, if we deny or ignore, accumulate and make our relationships with our kids very dysfunctional. If we fight the fact that they are getting older or if we fail to mourn the loss of our babies who are now adolescents or adults, we will constantly try to address them or treat them like the babies we wish they were. In other words, if you don’t accept them getting older, you will ruin your relationship with them.

          And what are you teaching them? How are you accepting your gradual aging? I learned from my Mom that a woman can get older but she doesn’t need to look older. As a person who began sporting the very, very light blond hair at the tender age of 25, I don’t expect to show the world my silver locks for many, many years to come. Whereas my mother has transitioned to accepting me as an adult, my Daddy still thinks I am a little girl.

          I had my father read my first unpublished novel. I respect my father and as an avid reader, his opinion was important to me. He read it and told me how proud he was of me. And then, as if to remind me that I was still the toothless girl in pigtails said, ‘The story is beautiful and I love it but you ruined it with bad words and sex. If you take all of that out, it would be perfect’. The story is about a woman finding her voice and reclaiming her life. Sex and swearing are really a key element to the tale. So I asked him, ’Daddy, be honest. If you thought someone else had written this, would you have minded the sex and swearing?’ He said, ‘Of course.’ The lack of eye contact made me push him a little more. ‘Daddy, which bothers you more, that I included a sex scene or two in the book or that I wrote it really well?’

          I will always be his little girl. The thought that I could come up with a scene that could be sexy just crashes into the image of the little girl who idolized him. This disparity with reality has caused some friction between us but we have risen above it because I know he adores me and I him. I let him baby me and just know it comes from a place of resistance to change. He is my cautionary tale when it comes to parenting. I need to keep the example of love and affection but avoid the need to keep my kids young and innocent. Besides, that’s Paul’s job. As I write this he is buying Jeannie a princess costume for Halloween.      

          Paul says: Do you think Snow White or Cinderella? Which one wears more clothes?

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