Beyond her years

Since Jon has been home and is providing an extra set of hands, I thought I might once again be able to perform certain duties with the ease that I did before I had a child. In some instances this is true, I no longer burn the pasta sauce because half of my attention is devoted to making sure that Leta isn’t shoving a blue washable marker into one of the dog’s many tempting orifices — although, it should be mentioned that Leta has finally decided to recognize the existence of the dog, that she no longer pushes his face out of the way with her tiny, dimpled palm as if he were an insignificant gnat that threatens to fly up her nose.

Instead, she lights up when she hears him running up the stairs and squeals, “It’s the good puppy!” In return, Chuck has become so sensitive to her moods that at night when he hears her wrestling with her covers or having a bad dream he runs to our room and stands at the door until one of us wakes up. There aren’t many things that are creepier than having an anxious animal stare at you while you sleep, maybe a hungry, anxious animal, or a one-night-stand who, having finally gotten laid for the first time in three years, is trying to imagine what his kids are going to look like with your profile, and whenever I sit up and whisper loudly for him to go back to sleep he refuses to move an inch. He just stands there adamant that WE CANNOT CONTINUE TO DISREGARD THE HUMAN. IT STIRS.

I thought that having Jon here would enable me to take leisurely showers again, and sometimes I do, but Leta is always nearby, often standing at the edge of the tub catching water in her mouth. She still follows me into the bathroom every time I go there, whether to brush my teeth or wash my face or sit on the big potty. I still can’t pee without another human being in the room, and rarely is she not there to hand me a wad of toilet paper or to flush the potty for me, sometimes offering to do the wiping. Um, thanks, how nice of you, but that’s not really a task I like to outsource.

Last week when Jon and I went to see a movie for our anniversary, I snuck off to the bathroom alone and had, I’m embarrassed to admit, a religious experience. The stall was filthy, the toilet seat so crooked that when I sat down I had to balance my hands against the walls so that I didn’t slide off to the right and land bare-butt in a puddle of an unknown substance. But I was alone, blissfully, euphorically alone. I didn’t have to anticipate jumping up with my pants around my ankles to stop another person from seeing how much Neosporin she can squeeze onto her father’s toothbrush. If heaven is half as good as that rush I might start going to church.

One afternoon last week I sat down in the bathroom, and Leta followed at a very short distance. I watched her rummage around in the cabinet under the sink, turning over bottles of free Avon shampoo, boxes of band-aids, and a wide assortment of bar soap stolen from hotels. At one point her entire body was inside that cabinet, and when she crawled out she held up her right hand to showcase her bounty: a single jumbo tampon. She clutched it in her fist as proudly if it were the Declaration of Independence.

“Here, Mama,” she said as she handed it to me. And then she paused and looked me square in the eyes. “I know, Mama,” she whispered. “I know.”

I almost fell off the toilet. My kid isn’t even potty-trained, and yet, she has the wisdom and generosity to tell me that she understands how tough it is to be a woman.