Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two Mothers

It’s close to midnight and, as I get ready for bed, my mind returns to the start of the day with my daughter.

I'd woken her that morning and rubbed her back and she’d mumbled something about a bad dream. In the rush to get ready for school, I said I was sorry and urged her to tell me more -- once she was downstairs, dressed, and ready for breakfast. But breakfast came and went in a blur. We finished our morning routine and I sat on the stairs to wait with her for her carpool. She tossed her lumpy, blue book bag -- bulging with books and a snack -- down by the door, then jumped and danced about the living room with her usual light-hearted spirit.

She was dressed in a boy’s blue and white, striped t-shirt, baggy, bright red, athletic shorts that hung over navy leggings with a giant hole in one knee (she likes the hole there,) and running shoes. She prefers the “boyish” look even while she often complements these outfits with a ponytail tied with a large, lavendar, sequined scrunchie.

She is lucky her mother doesn’t give a rip about fashion.

She was silly, almost slapstick, striking funny poses. One minute, the sultry mystery woman, the next, a ninja spy, a karate master, a fierce warrior woman, then a swash buckling feminine sword fighter. (Oh… to be nine again!)

We'd had a great week together the previous week, over break. She spent a day skiing with her beloved uncle – and arrived home exuberant, full of tales schussing down the slopes. (And I got to sit in the front seat on the way home, Mom!) We picked out a new bike -– her first with gears -- and spent sunny days pedaling around town. When the rain returned, we spent lazy mornings reading books, playing piano and card games, and watching movies cuddled on the couch (including a wonderful old Danny Kaye movie: The Court Jester. Hilarious. Run, don’t walk to your local video store.) She enjoyed play dates, sleepovers, and a special evening performance of HMS Pinafore. She loves Gilbert & Sullivan, the language, music, rhythm, poetry, and patter song. She's memorized the lyrics to most of their productions.

As I sat on the stairs and watched her happy, high energy dance I thought, It's been a good week.

Then I realized: I never checked back in about that bad dream.

Did you want to tell me about your dream? We have time now.

She came and sat down beside me.

This was a strange one Mom! We were cuddling in my bed like we always do. But when I looked around, it wasn’t you! The hair was frizzier than yours, (sorry -- hard to imagine) and the eyes weren’t green. I jumped up and found you in the closet -- tied to a stake. When I untied you, the woman in the bed sat up and said, (pointing with dramatic flair) “You have betrayed me!”

Then, my daughter, imitating the woman from her dream, made the motion of someone slitting their throat.

Wow! I said. Was that your birth mother?

Yeah. she said. I think so.

She didn't seem the least bit upset. She seemed more surprised by the strangeness of the dream.

Do you feel torn between two mothers? I asked.

No. It was just weird, Mom. Really weird!

Did you wake with your heart pounding?


That’s intense…


Well… I paused. (What to say?) Thanks for untying me.

Sure. No problem.

She shared this all in a completely matter of fact way. Her ride came and she hugged me with enthusiasm before running down the steps to greet her friends and take on the day.

I checked in with her once more when I picked her up from school that afternoon. We chatted about lots of things, then I referenced the dream, reassuring her she didn't need to pick sides. She could love two mothers -- and even love them in different ways if she chose. She knew this. She was cool about it. The dream was already, so... yesterday.

That night, I flash on an image of myself tied to a stake, stuffed in my daughter’s closet.

I guess it was my turn this time.

Part of me wonders if I need to call Jonna again. Or, if I’ll need to lock my door when my daughter reaches her teens and hormones kick in.

I remember Jonna's words:

This will come up again and again.... the first time is usually the hardest.

Then I can’t help but smile as a voice in my head whispers,

It's the battle of the mothers...

Or… is it the mother of all battles?

I give silent thanks again for my daughter’s honest, open heart, and climb into bed.

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