As I mentioned last week, we went to the zoo which led to the mall. Not exactly linearly, but when your children climb in exhibits, choose rock gullies over your warm embrace, and flee from you in the parking lot, something needs to change. Our collective family unit was sending out a cry for help. So I took Cora to the mall, by herself, on a date.
It’s easy for me to plan my time with Charlie. I often have a sitter come over for a few hours in the afternoon to watch the twins while I pick him up from school and we do special mommy/Charlie things like visit the fish in the pet store and go for walks in the park or get groceries at the store (some things are more “special” than others). But the twins are always “the twins”. It is almost impossible to leave someone with Charlie and only one of them unless they are trained in Charlie-etiquette while also nimble enough to chase a toddler. And the twins are good at demanding my time. They grab my face and pull it to theirs, tiny and serious in their request for Goldfish. It’s easy to let that be enough. But their needs can’t be the only thing I comply with. I’ve got to acknowledge their wants too. And one at a time.
So I abandoned Jody to the wolves (Charlie and Jonas) and whisked Cora off to Build-a-Bear. The car ride was…weird. We were alone. She kept asking where Jonas was. Like a fish with a three second memory. She felt out of water and wasn’t sure she like it. We walked into the mall hand-in-hand. It was nice having only one hand to hold. She didn’t even attempt to escape.
When we walked into Build-a-Bear, Jonas was forgotten. She was a girl on her first shopping spree. And she took complete advantage when the store’s hyper-stimulus stunned me into submission. While tiny puffs of stuffing wafted through the air and a giant sound machine barked and laughed and sang songs from Frozen, Cora managed to come out with two bears for her and Jonas. They giggled and kissed and wore only underwear and rain boots…little twinsie alter egos.
And then she got to choose whatever she wanted for lunch from the food court. WHATEVER she wanted. No rules today, my girl. She chose a giant sprinkle cookie and chicken nuggets. And we sat, together at a table built for two in the middle of the mall crowds, and we talked. She swung her feet, also in rain boots, and told me about her bear’s likes and dislikes. Why sprinkles are better than nuts. Why she is a good sister (she had a list). Why that man over there needs to wipe his mouth. And I sat and I listened and I looked at her the whole time. There was no one else to tell to sit still and not one else to feed or entertain. By the end she started to talk faster and faster, the sugar and thrill of uninterrupted attention sending her into overdrive.
This was our first date. Like we had just met and I was learning her. I noticed the new freckle on her nose and her new habit of brushing her hair out of her face that makes her look disconcertingly like a tiny teenager. I watched as she asked for a napkin and very precisely smeared all the ketchup into new spots on her face. I think I fell in love all over again.
It needs to happen more. With Jonas too. I need to see him when he’s not vying for my attention by dropping toys down vents or smearing the contents of his diaper on the wall (seriously). I don’t know when the next date will be, but like any girl in love, I’m savoring the anticipation. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way about me life. We get used to things, not ruts exactly, just the usual view. It’s nice to be taken by surprise by the ones you love. It’s groovy in its own way, knowing those closest can still make you look twice, scan the familiar like a tourist, and approach like a wooer.
Thanks for letting me Think Out Loud.