There’s no getting around it, four year olds are the honey badgers of the human race. They really just don’t give a shit. For example, my four year old thinks I am a napkin. And is completely disinterested in learning otherwise. Last weekend we were at a birthday party and my sweet baby girl ran over to me, threw her arms around my legs and buried her face in my skirt. The woman I was talking to touched my arm gently, “so sweet,”” she said. She looked down at my daughter in utter adoration. I gently touched the woman’s arm in return and said, “she’s wiping her face on my skirt.” Sure enough a moment later Riley ran off to play with the other kids, a smear of guacamole remained across my lap.
The me before I had children would tell me that I am a sucker, a total imbecile and sure to raise a brat. “Listen,” that me would tell me, “the best thing you could do is give that kid a good smack the next time she leans over and wipes her mouth on your pants. That’ll teach her.”
Of course, now that I’m actually a mother, besides never hitting my child, I would never call myself an imbecile in front of her. All the child development books I fall asleep while reading say that type of thing leads to kids thinking the same about themselves. The next thing you know, they’re cutting and on drugs.
But I get it, when you’re a baby people wipe your face for you. They wipe all parts of you all the time. I’m sure it was very nice. But it’s over. Plus, after all the wine I’ve drunk in my lifetime the child still somehow came out able bodied, she should damn well use it.
As I set down a healthy yet appetizing lunch in front of my daughter I’ll say something like, “enjoy… and here’s a napkin. A napkin. Use this to wipe your mouth with and not my shirt. It’s a napkin.” And yet moments later she will look at me and say, “Hug?” Which is code for: I’m totally going to wipe my mouth on you because you are a mother and cannot resist your child asking for a hug. And she’s right. Every time.
Four year olds just don’t give a shit. And why should they? Heretofore that’s been mom’s department. The worry bit. That’s our job. After eating, sometimes my daughter will rub her stomach and say, “Momma, look at my big belly!” She will laugh and be so delighted with herself. I should be celebrating with her yet all I can do is make a mental note to always stress “health” not “weight” with her. How do I make sure the day never comes when she looks in the mirror and frowns? How do I fill her with enough self-esteem that the billboards, magazine covers, and perky Disney princesses won’t matter as much as her own inner guide?
You know, my voice in her head.
So I make sure magazines with Hilary Rodham Clinton on the cover are lying around the house. I keep mentioning how athletics are great for focus and getting a scholarship to a decent college. Not for looking “hot” or as gateway to a career as a backup dancer. Just in an easy-breezy, offhanded kind of way.
She has this nasty head cold right now. It feels wrong to admit, but a part of me enjoys brushing sweaty hair from her hot forehead. So congested and tired. Just happy to lay with me on the couch under a blanket reading Curious George books.
At one point, we ran out of tissues and she used my sleeve. Just wiped snot all along my arm without giving it a second thought. Then she turned to me with guilt in her eyes.
“Sorry momma,” she said and big drops of tears ran down her red cheeks. Her hot foot pushed against my thigh. Outside was a bright sunny afternoon and the rest of the productive world was busy doing all the important stuff that needed to get done.
I held her a little tighter and smelled her still sick breath, “it’s ok my baby girl.” She sneezed and I offered up my other arm. We laughed and just laid on the couch snuggled up together like we did when she was a baby for a long while. Then, finally, “ok, mom read the book.”
So, rock on little honey badgers. Keep pushing limits and our buttons. Keep running absolutely everywhere, keep digging in mud looking for worms, keep climbing everything in sight, keep losing your minds over any perceived injustice. Ok, wait…maybe slightly less of that, but keep asking us “why” for hours on end about every single thing until we finally admit we don’t know. It’s good for us. Keep making us a little crazy. Because you can, and you should and, truth be told, it’s your job.
And maybe, for now, as repulsive as it may seem, I will be your tissue. But just for as long as the position remains needed.
Cause seriously, as soon as the fever breaks, and you can breathe enough to want something to eat, the time has come for you to get this: I am not a napkin.