Maxine, last night I made a parenting mistake with you. I don’t know what I was thinking. I invited you to a private slumber party–you and mama. You were excited all day.
When night rolled around, we popped corn in the air popper and brought it upstairs to watch a movie. Daddy put “Ratatouille” on for us and left. I should have previewed it. Actually, I should have thought of something else for us to do together. I’m sorry.
We were only a few minutes in and things spiraled out of control. The lady in the movie took out a gun and all of the rats scattered. The main character, rat, was separated from his friends.
Tears immediately sprang from your beautiful eyes. I quickly turned the movie off.
“Mama, where are the rat’s friends?”
“Mama, what was the lady doing with that air blower thing?” (you don’t know what a gun is)
I tried to answer calmly.
“Mama, I don’t like that.”
“I don’t either love bucket. Do you want to talk about it?”
“Mama, I was really scared. The rat lost his friends.”
“I understand that you’re scared about it Maxine. It is pretend. And I bet the rat finds his friends.”
“Mama, I’m scared. What are you going to say about that?”
Indeed, my love. What am I going to say about that? About love and loss? About all of the things I work so hard to keep from you…and then fuck that all up with five minutes from one movie? What am I going to say about the things that I don’t want you to know but that you will, inevitably, know–no matter how hard I try to shelter you from the harsh edges of a world that is supposed to be round.
“Maxine, I think there is a happy ending. The rat finds his friends. I’m sorry it scared you.”
I’m sorry I stole some of your innocence by showing your a freaking Disney movie. What was I thinking?
“Mama, how do you know it is pretend?”
“Because the things you see on TV are pretend. We know that real animals don’t talk like people. Mae Mae doesn’t talk like people. Winston doesn’t talk like people.”
“Mama, Grumpy doesn’t talk anymore. Remember when he didn’t die?”
Fuck. You are making the connection between the fricking air blower, that nasty lady, the rats’ peril and your grandfather’s death. I’ve worked so hard to make death not scary for you right now because you are just not ready to wrestle with it. Really, is anyone?
“Grumpy doesn’t talk the same way. But he still talks. He talks in your heart. I know he is telling you that he loves you. Can you hear him?”
“Mama, why did the rat’s friends leave?”
“It was a mistake honey. They were all in a hurry. They will find each other again.”
“I don’t like when you leave me downstairs and go up to check the laundry.”
“I will always come back to you, Maxine. I love you.”
“Can I know the reason?”
“The reason that I will always come back or the reason that I love you?”
“That you love me.”
“I love you because you’re you. I love you because you’re awesome. I love you because you’re my daughter. I love you because you are kind. I love you because you are a goofball. I love you because you make mistakes and do some really good learning from them. I love you because you’re thoughtful. I love you because you are so easy to love. I love you to infinity.”
“Mama, how do we turn the slumber party off?”
Fricking electronic age.
“We don’t have to turn it off honey. We just stop having it. We can cuddle and nurse and talk.”
“I don’t like that movie, mama”
“I don’t either. I’m sorry I showed it to you. We won’t ever watch it again.”