Sunday, July 24, 2011

Heavy Stuff

String Bean has always been a bit of a serious kid. Not when she's running around in the Ariel costume she just scored for 25 cents at the garage sale down the street, singing in her shrieking high voice about the wonders of the sea, but when it's late and quiet and she has time to settle into her own mind a bit. She likes to cuddle in her bed together after I put Peanut to sleep and talk about some of her thoughts, to sort of clear her mind before sleep. I get this, as I do it, too. Only I don't talk about it, I just mull over my own thoughts as I battle it out with insomnia. Some nights, the thoughts clear and I fall asleep soon. Other nights the insomnia wins and I have lots of free time for thinking.

So, for tonight's bedtime chat String Bean wanted to discuss the horrors of slavery. She wanted to know why light-skinned people would take dark-skinned people from their homes and families. Why they were cruel to them. Why they wouldn't pay them for working for them, and why they hit them whenever they wanted. She wanted to know why there were no laws to protect them. She also asked about the Civil War, wanted the low-down on Jim Crow laws, and followed up with asking why anyone would want to shoot Martin Luther King, Jr, when he was just trying to make the world a fair place.

I like that she's a deep-thinking 6-year-old, but sometimes I worry about all the heavy stuff she's carrying on her tiny shoulders. I asked if we should change the subject, if maybe talking about all of this scary stuff would make it harder for her to fall asleep, and she said, "It's not scary, just sad." And within a few minutes of expressing her sadness about the way people will treat people sometimes, she drifted off to sleep.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Mommy, Please Leave"

Every Tuesday morning my dad and step-mother watch my girls for a few precious hours, so that I can get out of the house and write distraction-free. It's been a great weekly date for the girls as well, who wait by the front window, watching for their grandparents' car, squealing as they see it park, jumping up and down as Grandpa pulls his banjo out of the back seat and Grandma fetches her coffee and latest book and heads toward the front door.

I try to take a few minutes to chat with my dad before heading out, and sometimes we even get a few words in. Usually, though, the girls are in a hurry to send me on my way. They have songs to sing while my dad plays banjo, or weddings to plan where he will be the groom, or various animal rides to take where he will play the animal and they will play the riders. The visual of my 71-year-old father crawling up and down the stairs with a 40-pound child on his back is priceless, and sometimes I like to take a moment to acknowledge him for his willing sacrifices to his body to keep these little girls happy. The little girls, however, have no time for such sentimentality.

"Mommy, please leave!" they shout in unison, as I try to chat with my dad. One will grab my wrist, the other pushing me from behind, leading me toward the door.

Once upon a time, they were shy about these weekly babysitting sessions. I can even remember early on, I would sneak out when Peanut went down for a nap, so she wouldn't know I was gone, and it would take both grandparents to soothe my separation-anxiety-ridden String Bean as I made for the door. Those days are history, as I try to finish my brief conversation with my dad, try to ask my step-mother what book she's reading now, and try to bid farewell to the girls who shove me so indelicately toward my car.

I get into the car, both girls shouting "Go, Mommy, go!" through cupped hands at the garage door, and smile. I am so grateful for my Tuesday morning alone time. And so glad my girls get the undivided attention of their grandparents for a few hours as well. Catch up time with my dad and step-mom can wait.