Lately they've been behaving VERY badly. Just this morning, the bowling-pin pig went on a rampage, trying to devour everything in his path. He snorted and sniffled in the guitar strings first. "That's not food," Lilly screached. Then he went after the bowling pin cow. "That's not food either," she said, more delighted but a little less certain about the nature of the game. Soon, the pig started snorting and sniffling Lilly's little PJ-clad body. "I need snacks," he kept saying. "I need snacks." (She was covered with flour from an early-morning bread-making project that went completely off the rails when she discovered how fun it is to watch flour float down from the bread board onto the floor.) In other words, the perfect target. The flour, dabbed on her nose and cheeks and caked on her fleecy PJs only delighted the pig more. "Mmmn. Mnnnhh.Slup.Urgghle.Hmmnh.Mmmmnnn." The pig chased after her and pinned her to the carpet. He (of course it's a he) was loving his wriggly 26-pound feast. Not so much Lilly. "I'm not food," she said, laughing. The first time. "No, I'm not food. I'm not food." Each time her voice rose a little, became a little sharper. "I'm not food!" She finally screamed in a way that got through to the pig. He stopped, put his nose down on the table, like he was lying at the end of an alley now, returned to his life as a bowling pin in Lilly's little game.
I felt terrible but I can't say I was surprised. All of her animals have been behaving badly lately. Just the other day that pig got decked by the bunny. "Hey that wasn't nice. Bunny shouldn't do that," Lilly said. I looked down at the bunny, who was at the end of my left hand. Hmmn? It was 10 in the morning. Saturday. I'd been muttering to myself for a couple of minutes--okay, two weeks non-stop--about the relentlessness of parenting. Lilly's endless "play with me" requests were beginning to sound to my ears like the tones prisoners use with one another when they spot a weak link in the crowd. But aggressive? Me? No, that's the very opposite of me, I think.
I'm so gentle with this little girl of ours--and the little boy who is always rolling around the carpet next to her now. Truly. This morning she woke up and came running down the hall from her room. "Hey, what's going on guys?" she said, in her little voice. Her mom was out of town so she clambered up and snuggled in with me. "It's warm in here," she said. "Ooh, your hands are warm, she said, grabbing my fingertips. "They're warm 'cuz it's warm under the covers." I pulled her close hoping I could drift off to sleep but she was having nothing of it. She sat up and put her white kitty in front of my face. "Meow, meow." I couldn't help but laugh. And the love I felt in that moment felt as strong as the roundhouse the bunny decked the pig with.
Parenting seems to defy any attempt at labeling it. Any attempt to reduce it to a word. A few come to mind: Love. Extreme suffering. Ecstasy. Punishment. But it's simply a matter of spirit. Ours rubbing up against theirs, sometimes until they're rubbed raw. Which is pretty messy, let's face it. I feed Lilly well, play with her endlessly, cuddle with her in bed in the morning and hold her hand at night when she drifts off to sleep. I also emit Charles Manson-like screams at times. Sometimes I wonder why if God gave us a natural drive to eat food he didn't also give us a natural drive to potty-train ourselves--or at least run our diapers through the washing machine. And it has occurred to me lately that a bunker built deep in the earth would not only protect my family if the apocalypse comes but that it might serve as a comfy "Man room" until then. So....
Lately, I'm doing my best to learn the entire libretto from the Wizard of Oz. But halfway through many of the songs, Lilly stops me and says, "No Dada, that's too fast." Or, "No, Dada sing it like this," after which she proceeds to sing it dead on key. Sometimes she'll just say, "No Dada, don't sing." Her spirit sings out in her every interaction. A spirit of love and trust and of the most precious engagement with all that is life. My spirit sings out too, I suppose. It's singing when I'm cleaning up her spills and when I'm driving around the valley trying to figure out how to sing "Here we go a-wassailing" on key. It sings out too, when another pig goes on a rampage and when the bunny sucker punches the kitty. Maybe spirit is like that--a little rough around the edges. Maybe it's just that messy inner liveliness that we recognize as truth and beauty in our children and we have so much trouble trusting in ourselves. Maybe.