“Sprinkles, Mommy! I want sprinkles!”
“Rainbow or chocolate?”
“Both, Mommy! I want them both! Ow!” My daughter winces. “They’re hurting me!”
“Look at me, baby! Look at me!” I turn her head to face mine. “Don’t look down there!”
“You can have whatever toppings you want. You can have every topping in the store.”
“Mommy! Make them stop!”
S. looks past me at the open wound and at the nurse, in the middle of sewing 17 stitches into her leg, as a result of being hit by a car hours earlier. The staff assures me that she can’t feel a thing, but every time she glances at her injury, she panics.
“What about marshmellow sauce?”
“Yes, Mommy! Yes!
S. wraps her arms around me and hugs me hard.
For the moment, she forgets about the stitches.
S. was released from the emergency room that night and the next day, I wheeled my daughter, high on codeine, unable to walk and sitting in an old stroller, into the self-serve frozen yogurt store, to make good on my promise.
This has been the year about food.
Not good food. Not the clean eating green smoothie kind of food that I used to blog about eons ago.
This year has been about comfort food.
It has been about Happy Meals and peanut butter sandwiches and taking my kids for self serve frozen yogurt more time than I can count. It has been about letting them eat their Halloween Candy and Easter Candy that sits in the kitchen cabinet on any day they want instead of it having to be a special day or occasion. It has been about giving my daughter lollipops three times a day when that’s how many times a day I had to change those bandages on her leg, that first lollipop given at 8:00 in the morning.
Our best nights together were are the pancake house, where I never once stopped them from pouring too much syrup on their waffles, the bagels on the way to soccer games washed down by juice boxes.
Have you ever checked to see how many grams of sugar are in a juice box?
This was the year I stopped caring about things like that.
This was the year that it was more important to me to watch three children marvel at the taste of a waffle when completely engulfed in syrup. This was the year that I gave them money for school lunch, even on French toast stick day. This was the year that we ate pizza three nights in a row.
This was the year that while my kids delighted in Girl Scout cookies before dinner or salt water taffy too close to bed, we sat around a table and delighted in each other. We shared stories, of school days and soccer practices and play dates. They were conversations sweetened by and bonded over food.
These were the moments that I sat with them. These were the moments that I listened.
We’ve had our best discussions over ice cream sundaes, when, in between each spoonful, my giddy sugar rushed children, eagerly offered the truth.
One night, a few weeks ago, after B.’s school play and on an 8:00 pm run to Target, with all three kids in tow, Miss F. grabbed my hand as I drove.
“Mommy, I have to tell you something.”
“What is it baby?”
“I did something you’re not going to like.”
“Did it happen at school?”
“It wasn’t at school?”
“Did you hurt someone? Were you fighting with your brother?”
“No, Mommy. No, I.. I…”
It was then that she burst into tears.
“I stole something.”
Through her sobs, Miss F. told me the story. It had happened in Kindergarten, three years ago. She had taken a tube of Chapstick from a checkout line display in a grocery store, which had sat in a drawer, forgotten about, until earlier that day.
“I want to take it back, Mommy!”
“We can take it back.”
“And I want to pay for it. With my own money.”
“I think that’s a smart idea.”
“I’m so sorry, Mommy! I’m so sorry!”
“I know you are baby.”
“Are you mad at me?”
“You’re mad enough at yourself right now. You don’t need me mad at you, too. As a matter of fact, I think I love you more right now than I ever have.”
“Because you were brave to tell me the truth.”
I pull into our parking space and give my girl a hug.
“I promise it will never happen again. Ever.”
“I know it won’t. Just promise me one more thing?”
I gently grab my girl’s face and turn her eyes toward mine.
“Just keep talking to me. Every day. About everything. Please. Just keep talking.”
This post is dedicated to Eli Pacheco of Coach Daddy Blog, and was inspired by his post, “What Sandy Hook Taught Me: Keep My Girls Close” that I featured as one of my favorites of the year. His resolve on how to parent in the wake of the Sandy Hook Tragedy is by far the best I have come across. If you haven’t read this post, you really should.
This post is also written in memory of my father, Douglas Kaplan, who passed away last week, on the 24th of April. Running is how we kept each other close, even during the years when we weren’t. Running was our language. Then, now, and always.