I take the elevator up to the 11th floor, and follow the familiar signs down the hallway to Clinic One.
For weeks now, we’ve been bundling Bingo into a coat before we head out the door, and our trips to the park have become filled with detours to find the crunchiest leaves. This morning we turned on the furnace. I’m finally willing to call it: summer is over.
Bingo knows what “daddy” means.
She gleefully points to her friends’ fathers and shouts to them, “Daddy!”
Any guy carrying a kid on his shoulders: “Daddy!”
The stock photography guy on the air conditioner box (lying relaxed and, presumably, cool with his stock photography wife and kid): “Daddy!”
She’s even taken two of her friend’s fathers on as her own. When either of them is around, it isn’t Henry’s daddy or Olivia’s daddy* that we’re talking about: it’s just daddy. “Daddy push swing! Silly daddy!” Inevitably, this has led to uncomfortable public announcements such as, “Daddy at Olivia’s house. Daddy go home. Bye bye daddy!”
I have to admit: the unrestrained** enthusiasm for daddies made me a little nervous when it first came up. “Oh no!”, I thought to myself. “Bingo knows that she doesn’t have a daddy, and wants one! What if she resents us? What if she goes on a desperate and misguided search for father figures later in life? What if the anti-gay conservative populace hears about this?!”
Then I paused (for the split second that parenting allows any pause to last) and remembered to breathe.
Do you know what else Bingo really wants? She wants a dog. She loves Henry’s dogs as much as she loves Henry’s daddy. The highlight of her short life so far has been getting to hold one of those dog’s leashes on a short walk down the street. She waves to every dog on the street. She tells anybody who will listen that Grandma is bringing her a dog for her birthday.
But Grandma is not getting Bingo a dog, unless Grandma wants to be disowned. Our house is a dog-free house, and will likely remain that way. Bingo will grow up with a bunch of cats and whatever creatures might live in our walls, but no other furry friends. And Bingo will be okay.
So, if anybody tells me that Bingo needs a daddy (Bingo included), I’ll explain that all all families are different. That different people and things fit into our hearts and homes: moms, dads, cats, dogs, budgies, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, friends, entire villages. I’ll explain that not having any of those things doesn’t mean that you’re missing them. And I’ll explain that at the end of the day the only daddy in our house is still going to be the guy on the air conditioning box.
*Not her friends actual names, but the names of pretty much every two year old we meet.
**Really though, what is restrained when it comes to toddler?
There are times when I don’t feel grown up enough to be a parent. When I feel like my brain is rushing to catch up to the life that I’ve created for it. That feeling was there when we left the hospital with a baby, it’s there every time somebody introduces me as Bingo’s mom, and it’s there when I look around my house- every room scattered with toys- and think, “It looks like a kid lives here.”
I feel like I’m faking it.
But then my feverish baby calls for me over the monitor: “Mummy!” And I take her temperature, and give her medicine, and worry a little but not too much. This is the fifteenth fever, after all, not the first. I sit rocking with her in the dark, one of her small fever hot hands curled around my collar, and I don’t feel like I’m faking it anymore.
How can I, really? Knowing that, to her, Sea and I are everything. We’re not pretend parents, we’re not unsure parents, we’re not people pretending to be adults. We’re just her parents: the only ones she’s got. To her, we are enough.
Bingo is asleep again. She breathes deeply in my arms, but still moves fitfully: the fever isn’t gone yet. So I keep rocking her. And in this dark room, in this moment, I feel it too: we are enough.
Two weeks later, I’m willing to call it: Bingo is weaned.
My last post on breastfeeding reinforced for me just how done I was. I was done being kicked in the face every time she nursed, I was done with the constant latching/unlatching, I was done with the whiny cries for “MAAAALK”, I was just done.
So we weaned her.
On some days you feel like a competent adult.
And on other days your parenting conversations go like this:
“We need to feed her a vegetable tomorrow.”
“And brush her teeth.”