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My Little Girl is turning into a Mini Teenager. To prove it, yesterday she had a bout of existential anguish. She pined over lost time with Raggedy Ann, who was lovingly made and given to her by Abuela (my mother, a fine artisan from The Island).

Raggedy Ann made by Abuela

Raggedy Ann and the Mini Teenager enjoyed happy days at the park.

How would she ever recover lost time with Raggedy Ann (waahh), she who has been with her for two years (sniff), through two big moves, bouncing from box to closet and closet to box to finally have some attention from her busy little owner?  Raggedy Ann with the delicately embroidered face and a little red heart on her chest that says “I love you.”  Surely she realized that the doll used to be as big as she was two years ago, and now the doll is getting “smaller.” She also realized (and she said so) she wouldn’t want her friends to laugh at her if she took Raggedy Ann to third grade (she used to carry Raggedy Ann to the park and send her flying down the slides). Here’s a self-aware child who realizes she’s growing up.

She said through tears that she couldn’t spend more time with Raggedy Ann because she was “working,” and she said it just like a mother bemoans time lost with her growing child. I know she meant schoolwork and other activities, but, for a moment, I wasn’t sure if this was or wasn’t  a trick-dream my guilty subconscious was playing on me. Maybe the message is that she wants ME to spend more time with HER. Whatever the trigger, or the psychology behind it, this was definitively my emerging Mini Teenager crying over happy days that will never return.

I tried to explain the concept of living in the present moment.  Raggedy Ann surely loves and appreciates her and will be happy for the gift of her friendship any time. “Your friends love you and are happy to play with you whenever you’re ready,” I said, thinking about my own good friends who have been there for me since grade school, and still “play” with me. None of them look like Raggedy Ann, they are much more beautiful and strong (and they read this). I tried to teach her the phrase “Today is the first day of the rest of my life,” hoping she’d remember it someday, even if it wasn’t completely clear now. I’m sure she’ll use it against me whenever I try to remind her about something disagreeable she did the day before. She’s too smart.

She finally gave Raggedy Ann a hug and a kiss, collected herself and settled down to read a book, probably to distract herself from the bittersweetness of growing up. Later, I thought maybe she was remembering that part in the movie Toy Story 3  when Andy has to part with his toys one last time when he goes to college. I also thought maybe she had too much (or not enough) drama at her after-school theatre class and was rehearsing with me. (She sure has a way of making anyone buy into her drama and tug at anyone’s heartstrings.) At a deeper level, I hope she always stays in touch with her feelings, and always feels this comfortable sharing her feelings with her mother. Or at least for a little while longer, before the real teenage years arrive.

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La pelea de las migajas started innocently enough. Little girl gets up all cranky, hair frazzled (don’t comb it mom, it hurts), blanket-stuck-to-cheek, undies-in-a-wad. Her mother (yo) drags her out of bed, dresses her like a baby (mom, you’re bending my ear with the shirt!), and manages to get her to the kitchen table – where the real fight begins.

“I got your backpack ready, what are you gonna have for breakfast?

“I don’t know; I can’t decide,” she says to the overflowing pantry looming over her. “All we have is cereal and snacks.”

We do this every morning, and Dr. Bogeyman doesn’t do the trick anymore.

“Cheerios? Waffles? English muffin,toast, egg?, ” I’m hoping something will click.

“I can’t decide!”

The tyranny of too many choices.

“How about egg and bread?” I offer as I notice someone left the bread bag open overnight and that might not be a choice after all. “Your father left the bread open again, me caso en su vida!”

“No, mom, that was me last night. I was hungry after dinner.”

“That’s because you don’t want to eat the good food your mother prepares for you,” sniffing the bread, it’s fine. “And if you can have plain bread at night, why don’t you at least have toast with butter now?”

“Because it’s not the saaaame…

“All right, we gotta go to school in five minutes, what’s it gonna be? 

Silence.

“Well, here’s some toast and a couple of strawberries.”  I’m done bargaining, and we’re out of time.

Little girl stares silently out the glass door, maybe hoping a great egret will pick her up and whisk her away from this appetizing torture.

“Time to eat,” I prompt to interrupt her vision.

“I just can’t deciiiide,” she whines as her toast loses precious heat (it’s 40 degrees out).

That’s it, in lieu of the Tiger Mother, the Boricua Mother comes out: “It’s not a matter of deciding, it’s a matter of opening your mouth and chewing the food you got in front of you! ”  

She gives me the puppy dog eyes. Starts to get teary. I want to laugh, but a flash of my grandparents’ GreatDeppresion-AND-Two-Hurricanes-Devastate-The-Island stories (Lares, PR, circa 1933, sopa de gandules for breakfast, lunch and dinner) toughens me up.

“¡CO-ME-TE  EL  PAN!”

She knows I mean business now. Spanish comes out when I’ve had it – another absurd twist of Living La  Vida Traducida. 

She proceeds to put the cooling piece of buttered toast in her mouth and take a tiny bite. I look away before I lose it. I hear munching on strawberries and then breaking of bread. When I look again, she’s got the bread over her head, back turned to her now-really-captive audience and is performing a strange  puppet show with the bread dropping crumbs on her hair.

“This is you,” she enlightens her audience. “And this is me,” shaking the other half of the bread.

“Eat, so you can grow!”  “But I’m not hungry!”  The dueling bread halves yell at each other, all while continuing to drop crumbs on her head.

She turns around just in time to see the right corner of my mouth struggling to contain a smile. Satisfied with the shadow of a half-smile, she quietly eats both halves of the bread, leaving only crumbs on the tablecloth – and on her head.

When she’s finished, I toss her hair with my fingers and get a few breadcrumbs off. “Remember to explain to your teacher that those breadcrumbs got there after a breadcrumb fight with your mother…”

We actually make it to school on time. She gets out of the car, and with her most beautiful smile says “Have a good day mom!” 

I shake my head, half reproaching, half proud. “I love you,” I wave from the driver’s seat.   

And off I go to my daily work of translating medical brochures, cleaning, editing an M.D. interview, cooking…and other things mothers juggle to put breadcrumbs on the table.