When she was four, I used to scoop my daughter Elle in my arms and swing her around my parents’ kitchen to Rosemary Clooney’s version of Mambo Italiano. She loved it! It was mostly the swinging, I reckon, not so much the song. She didn’t care what song was playing. She’s six now and even though I can still hold her in my arms, I tire faster. I don’t know whether she remembers the swinging around. I’ll ask her. I reckon that she doesn’t, though. She’s six after all; and a lot has happened in two years. She has changed classes, she’s made new friends, she’s learnt to hide things and at times, tell outright lies. Thankfully, she’s a lousy liar and I can tell when she’s lying. I can also tell when she’s disappointed, and it breaks my heart. Like when she tells me to bring her a toy, I agree and then don’t deliver.
She’s mine. I “made” a little person and I am responsible for her. I’m responsible for the woman that she becomes, the things that she believes in, the way she communicates. I was never taught to be a man. Why would I? I’m a girl after all, and all expectations pointed to my growing to be a lady. Not just a woman mind, a lady. To be honest, I still don’t know what that word means. Anyway, nobody taught me how to be a man but I still need to do “dad things” sometimes. I need teach my daughter how she should be treated by a man. To teach her that there is a bar – a bar that any man who wants to be in her life should meet. She is six years old and I have taught her to wait for me to open the car door for her after I’ve parked. My parent’s car that is (just in case my dad is reading this, I need to be clear, you know?).
It took a few tries to teach her this; because she is constantly in motion (it seems). No sooner had I finished parking, than her hand would be on the door, eager to get out. So one day, I told her to wait. I parked, turned to her and asked,
“Do you know why I tell you to wait for me to open the car door for you?”
She said, “No, why?”
I said, “Because you’re a princess; and princesses wait for the door to be opened for them.”
Two weeks ago, we were in the car together, I parked; and she did not move. She did not even shift in her seat. She waited as I walked around and opened the door. I held out my hand, she took it and swung out of the car. I was extremely proud. It was such a mommy moment!
Being a mommy also means that Elle will identify who she is, partly by watching me. Watching how I talk to people, how I interact with situations, how I let people talk to me. She is going to watch the man that I allow into my life. She will watch how that man treats me, how he talks to me – how I let that man treat and talk to me.
I’m responsible for a person. I do not take that responsibility lightly.