My daughter is a force of nature.
Scout is 2 1/2 – she’ll be 3 at the end of May.
Her hair is wild, unkempt, wavy. She has a cherubic smile and chubby cheeks with one dimple on the right and no dimple on the left.
She is full of life, vivacious and energetic – she dances and sings her way through her day. She loves tutus, flouncy dresses (she calls them her “spinners”) and all things sparkly. But don’t make the mistake of thinking she’s some kind of wussy girly girl – this child is forged from steel. Her will, it is unbreakable. She’s bossy and demanding. (Three seconds after she asks me for milk, if it she doesn’t receive it on the double, I will hear her shouting from the other room, “You’re not getting me milk!” We are working on manners.) When she is crossed, she can wither you with a menacing side glance. She is tough as nails, and fearless.
She’s just like me.
Okay, maybe Scout is a bit more intense, but yeah, she’s all me. It’s unnerving to think that there is some tiny, distilled version of yourself out there bouncing around in the world. When I look at her, her steely gray-green eyes and the firm set of her jaw, her boundless energy, her ability to immediately breathe life, energy and fun into a room, all I can think is: “we are going to have our hands full with this one.”
There are moments where I realize that not only is she genetically predisposed to be my mini-me, but she picks up cues from me all the time.
We love to do laundry together – it’s sort of our thing.
Hand in hand, we tramp down the stairs to the basement, we separate the darks from lights, the towels from sheets: we shove it all into the washer, turn the dial and push the buttons (that is Scout’s favorite part). We wait for the water to start rushing into the window of the front loader, and then Scout announces, “It’s all ready!!” (which means it’s all done).
A few days ago, we did our usual routine, hand in hand down the stairs, towards the laundry room – Scout marches in, in front of me (she doesn’t walk – she marches), put her hands on her hips, looks around at the piles of clothes and says emphatically, “SO.” It took me a second to realize why that expression – the stance, the delivery – was so familiar. It was ME.
This is exactly what I do, every time we tramp downstairs, into the laundry room together, I look around, assess the situation, proclaim emphatically, “SO.” and then I start directing Operation Laundry:
“Let’s put the towels into the wash first, like this – here, grab that sock – then we close the door, let’s fill the soap – I’ll do that part – then turn the dial to HERE (pointing out the setting we need). . . “ I verbally command us through the whole process. The piles of laundry may differ from day to day, but the way we begin is consistent: “SO.”
It’s moments like this that makes me realize, I will have a profound impact on this child’s life. Not just because I’m her mom. Not just because she has clearly inherited some personality traits from me. But, because she looks up to me. She learns, from me.
This is unnerving.
I look at her and I hope against hope that she can somehow miss some of the hard lessons I had to learn: how not to hurt people, how not to hurt myself, how to develop self-respect, how to make sound life decisions, based on some internal guiding force, rather than fear. How not to worry so much (still working on that one).
But she will have her own lessons. And she may someday learn to take the pain life presents you (it is inevitable, there will be pain, from within or without) and use it as a force for change. If she learns one thing from me, may that be it. (Please?)
There are so many parts of myself I never wanted to pass on – I can be judgmental, I can be hard on those I love (especially those I love), I can be demanding.
The Perfect Mom is a myth. But – I want to find a way to work around my own flaws and give her the best version of myself I can. Because she is looking to me, as an example.
To sort through all of your own stuff and try to figure out a way to explain this whole life process to someone else, is kind of messy. Sort of like doing laundry. So much stuff. Piles and piles of stuff.
But together, we will assess the situation and figure out the best way to proceed. Maybe at some point in the future I won’t lead the way. Maybe at some point, I follow my strong-willed daughter’s lead. Or maybe, just maybe, we do it together, hand in hand.