Last Saturday arrived, cloudy and dreary in the morning but I thought I'd at least get the grass mowed before the rains came. The hubbie had some errands to run so he took our son with him and my daughter stayed home with me. We'd had a full week of me accusing her of not listening to me and her accusing me of being the worst mother ever so I was surprised when, rather than riding her bike or making chalk pictures in the driveway, she walked alongside me as I mowed.
(OK, I'll admit that initially I was irked. Usually mowing the lawn gives me a little distance.)
Then she ran ahead and picked a flower (dandelion) for me. I gave her a kiss and thanked her and she beamed! She ran inside to add it to a cup of water that held 2 "flowers" that she and her brother had picked the day before. She ran back out, walked alongside me again for a minute, then spotted more. She'd pick one, I'd give her a kiss and she'd go get another one. I had to stop mowing the grass many times and finally had to get a big fancy glass out of the cupboard to hold my yellow bouquet. Cutting the yard took two or three times longer than usual but it was worth it. We don't get much one-on-one time together and while I'm not sure this counts as "quality time" we certainly were having fun! (When I asked her if she was tired of walking back and forth across the line with me, she answered "I'm getting my exercise!")
She finally moved to the driveway with the sidewalk chalk and drew a portrait of me. Then she drew this self-portrait! .
Just in case you can't read those words in her thought bubble, let me zoom you in a little...
Can you read it now? YES! It says: "Mommy Rules!"
I won't tell you what she usually writes about me in the driveway...I'll just say this is quite the opposite!
By now the sun is shining brightly (yes, I'm still in the self-destructive mode of mowing without sunscreen) which means I'm HAPPY to be getting color, I'm getting something productive done, I'm spending time with my daughter and TODAY SHE LIKES ME! I even look up and say a little "thank you!" As I do, she says she's hungry and I ask for one more minute and then I'll go in and make lunch. She asks if I will please sit with her while she eats her lunch. (She's afraid I'll make her a sandwich, turn on the tv and go finish the lawn). But right then, the hubbie and son return from their errands with McDonald's Happy Meals in hand!
Sun shining...birds singing...and Happy Meals, too! Life does not get any better!
I help them carry the drinks inside and cheerfully tell my daughter, "This worked out great! Now you have lunch and you can sit with your Dad and brother instead of a dirty, stinky Mom!"
The look I receive back looks a little like this:
However, I know once she gets to her french fries, she'll be fine and I head back outside to mow the backyard. I start the mower and move several yards along the fence before I get to the garden with more dandelions, a few blooming poppies and a dead rabbit.
I stop the mower and just stand there. I know I have to take care of this but I can't move. I know my daughter is going to finish that Happy Meal and come bounding back out here and I can't let her see this. It takes me another minute but I finally head back to the house.
A rational, good mother would have picked up the shovel. I walk right past it, go into the kitchen and give my hubbie this look:
I relate what I've found and explain how I'd really like him to take care of it for me. (In my defense, I've scraped half of a mouse off our frozen porch that a cat left behind before my kids could realize it was not, in fact, a "funny looking leaf." I've also picked up a dead bird--I blame that on the same cat--and a squirrel that a driver kindly left in my front yard. So while you may be thinking that I've worked my way up from the tiniest animals, I thought it was time to take turns.) This was only days after I'd read this post on Joshilyn Jackson's blog and I was inspired by her husband's offer to come home from work to help her. I thought maybe my hubbie would be as willing.
His initial response was "just get a trash bag."
As I try to explain the amount of difficulty I had getting the little squirrel into one of those, my daughter has caught on to the fact that something is not right. Remember my cheerful little shadow from the beginning of this post? The girl that brought me flowers and thinks I "rule?" The first question out of adoring daughter's mouth is "did you run over something with the lawn mower and kill it?"
This is where the karma kicks in. Three years ago--the Saturday before Easter, I believe--I hit a rabbit with the car. The kids were in the car with me and they did not witness the event itself but heard me gasp. Not being a clever enough mom to lie quickly enough though, I told them the truth. (I did go back to see if we could save the bunny but it was a rabbit and I'd been driving a Suburban.)
Three years later, I'm still honest. I respond that I did not run over anything. "Can I come in the back yard with you now and pick the yellow flowers out there?" she asks.
I go out to take care of the rabbit. While my hubbie's solution could work, I know I can't hold the trash bag open with one hand and get the job done with the other. I think I can bury it in the garden instead. I come back and tell him. He rolls his eyes and I bat mine. He caves and goes out to take care of it.
Well, a cheer that he'll take care of this, anyway. My daughter wants to know what he's doing.
"Just helping Mommy. He'll be right back."
She isn't stupid. "I'll just look out the window," she says.
"No, come over and talk to me instead."
"Mom, just tell me what is going on." I sigh. Right or wrong, I'm stuck now and decide to level with her. I utter the words that will haunt me later: "You are old enough to know the truth."
I tell her I found a dead rabbit in the garden and Daddy will clean it up. "Did you hit it with the lawn mower?" she wants to know again. I repeat that I found it and I think the bunny lost a battle with a cat. "Whose cat?" Whoops. I tell her I don't know, that Daddy is taking care of it and everything will be just fine. I ask her not to tell her brother who has been watching tv all this time and is blissfully unaware of the whole situation. "Why?"
"He isn't as old as you. Let's just not tell him."
"OK. Can I go pick those flowers yet?"
Whew! She's OK! I start to say no but her Dad walks in, saying the deed is done. So I go back out to mow and she picks another bouquet of dandelions.
A little later, the yard is done and I'm upstairs getting ready to take a shower. So of course, this is the time my daughter wants to have a discussion.
"Mom, can I ask you a question?"
"If it's quick. I just want to jump in the shower. Can it wait five minutes?"
"I guess so. I just wanted to tell you that I don't believe in the Tooth Fairy anymore."
For the second time in the same afternoon, time (and I) stand still for a second while her words circle around my head for a moment.
"Honey, why would you say that?"
"Well, a boy in my class saw his mom and dad putting money under his pillow when he lost a tooth, so I'm guessing that's what you and Daddy do, too." Her eyes are welling up and she's trying not to cry.
I wasn't expecting this and before I know it, I hear the words "I haven't put money under your pillow" jump right out of my mouth. I try to think how I can retract that and give a more pseudo-lie rather than a real one. What I say is, "let Mommy take this shower and we'll sit down and talk about it, OK?"
She nods and leaves. I take an extra-long shower, pondering exactly what I should tell her. Is she old enough to learn the truth? Should I come clean on the day before the Easter Bunny arrives?
Eventually I arrive downstairs to find her playing with her dolls. I quietly ask the hubbie his opinion. I say maybe I could tell her that sometimes parents help the Tooth Fairy. He nods vigorously. "Yes! Tell her that!"
I wonder how to bring it back up but she's playing nicely. So I wait for her to ask. She doesn't. She's fine, she's cheerful and hours later, rather than worrying about whether tooth fairies exist, she is asking to put carrots out for the Easter Bunny.
For a nanosecond, I wonder why she doubted the existence of one and not the other. Then I realize that I specifically told her that she was old enough for me to tell her the truth. So when she popped her question, she believed the first response that came out of my mouth.
That's going to come back to bite me somewhere else.