I like to think I understand your feelings and thoughts and emotions because you sometimes make weird faces when you do things. Like the furrowed brow face you make when you’re eating avocados or dissecting your stuffed giraffe. It’s the same face I make when I’m focusing on something, like my computer monitor or a particularly philosophical book or your dad’s political rants in the kitchen. And I like to think that’s your concentration face, too, and that we’re linked in that way, but really I wonder if that same furrowed brow might mean something else to you – like you’re unimpressed or bored or daydreaming about springtime.
And then I smile because I think of all the times I’ll be projecting my own furrowed brow onto you. How I hope you’ll love swimming and trampolines and belly laughs and won’t grow up addicted to technology or bubble gum. I hope loud noises don’t annoy you and you’ll bring muffins to neighbors when they’re sick. I hope you raise your hand for life and learn handwriting you don’t hate. I hope you don’t get frustrated in the post office line; that instead, you let your mind wander to how amazing it is that you can send letters to people that are far away from you. I hope you send letters to people that are far away from you.
And I think I hope these things for you because I hope them for myself. But that’s not fair, necessarily, is it? Because I can encourage you and teach you and shape you, but I cannot know what your furrowed brow face means. Because it’s your furrowed brow, not mine.
I’m trying to remember this as you get older and start to distinguish between your wants and needs and likes and loves. I have a feeling we’re very different, you and I. This morning I was giving you a bath and the water turned cold all the sudden, and I cringed because I knew you were going to cry because I would have cried, but instead, you looked at the spout as if it were an old friend delivering chocolate chip cookies for no reason at all. Like here we were, taking a bath like any other day, and oh, wait… this is new. This is fun.
And because I am over-analytical, I spent the remainder of bath time thinking such a behavioral display meant that you were going to be a go-with-the-flow kid, as if cold water and thunderstorms and impromptu flat tires wouldn’t even phase you. And then I realized I’m furrowing my brow at you again, and really you might just like cold water?
Parenting is weird, Bee. It attacks your heart and sends foreign cells throughout your bloodstream that force you to think about bowel movements and sleep patterns and nursing schedules and – later – homework assignments and failed tests and failed relationships and leaving legacies. And my hope for you isn’t really that you’ll love trampolines or post offices or become like your mother. It’s that we can both react to the cold water in our own ways. And that we’ll be different people, because that’s what a family is. And that we’ll try to understand each other anyway, even though your furrowed brow might mean one thing and mine means the other.
But my hope is also a little bit that one day when you’re older, your father will be on a particular political rant during dinnertime and you and I can glance across the asparagus and smile, knowing exactly what the other is thinking. And then you’ll sip your water and the moment will pass and we will all will have learned something spectacular that night.