It’s a good thing I have a sense of humor, because if I didn’t I’d be in therapy right now. No, not really, but still. We’ve been laughing a lot around here these past few days. We have to. Saoirse’s entered what I’ll call the honesty phase of childhood (how long does this last? Till she turns 13 and starts sneaking out of the house?), otherwise known as the call-it-like-I-see-it phase, or the world-in-black-and-white phase. Some might say it’s the phase that strikes fear and embarrassment in the heart of any parent. Want some proof?
Exhibit A: at the table, at lunch this weekend. We were getting ready to leave the house. Saoirse had watched me stick a bunch of hot rollers in my hair (yes, I’m one of the two people in this country between the ages of 15-40 who still actually use them) because I was too lazy to actually blow it out properly (I grow my hair out solely to be able to put it in ponytails, by the way. All this other nonsense that involves styling it–ugh, the hair dryer–makes me impatient. I am so glamorous sometimes it hurts, I tell you). David started the girls on their lunch, and I joined up with them shortly after after I’d taken the rollers out. As I sat down beside her, Saoirse took one look at my hair–the waves were still tight around my head, Marilyn Monroe-style–and her eyes grew wide. Really wide. “Mom, what did you do to your hair?” she asked. “It looks terrible.”
Exhibit B: I went out for a run this morning (and by run, I mean, I only ran when the road went downhill. We have a 5K coming up in October, which is the only possible reason why I’d venture out of the lovely four walls of my gym to exercise. It’s hard for me to maintain stamina unless I’m subjected to really loud techno music and there’s an instructor yelling at me to hurry up and pick up those knees already. Sadism is a great motivator.). As I was rounding the bend of the road leading up to our house, I saw an excited SK standing in the doorway in her yellow pajamas, excitedly waving at me. When I got inside, she asked me why I was running. Well, I told her, Daddy and I are running a race in a couple of months, so I’m practicing. Was I fast, I asked her, joking around. “No,” she replied, her face completely stoic. “Mommy, you run really slow.”
Exhibit C: Ah, the dinner table. We all know this routine. The dinners our children love the most are on the days we’re running through Wegman’s in a hectic blur and I just pick up a pizza to stick in the oven at home. Those are the nights the girls clear their plates, ask for seconds, and are quiet for, like, 15 minutes because they’re so busy shoving food down their gobs. The nights I’ve analyzed the cookbook, broken out all the funky herbs–the meals of which I’m most proud, of course, because they were fun and different–are the evenings where SK takes one sniff of her forkful, says “Mom, I don’t like this yucky taste” and asks for dessert.
Exhibit D: In the mall, or the grocery store, or a restaurant. Saoirse spots an elderly person in a wheelchair, or with a walker or cane. She loudly asks me, “Mom, is that person old? Are you old, Mom? Or are you new?”
The honesty phase. David and I are spending a lot of time doubled over, laughing, after Saoirse leaves the room. I find myself sending a lot of texts that start “Guess what she said now?!” To tell you the truth, I think I’m a little jealous of the luxury of childhood honesty. Kids don’t have to mince their words, or sugarcoat what they want, or second guess what they say, because they’re just speaking the truth. It’s the only thing they know.
And it’s funny. It has to be funny. After all, Saoirse’s only speaking what she feels, and how can I not empathize with that? I love the lack of pretension or conceit in children. Their opinions are genuine, and immediate, and heartfelt, which I can appreciate, even as I’m packing away my hot rollers. Saoirse saw my wet hair after my shower this morning (you know, the one after my slooowww run) and begged me to use the hair dryer on it this time.