My daughter is now five. We share the same weirdly shaped toes, face-exploding smiles and deep devotion to sugar. Other than that, at this current stage of our lives, we don’t have a whole lot in common.
She doesn’t appreciate pinched crumbs of perfectly aged gorgonzola in her salads; I don’t understand the allure of cheese strings sloppily dredged through ketchup.
She yawns and fidgets through deep-diving true crime documentaries (“where are the princesses?”) and I can only handle the canned laugh track of her Full House re-runs for so long until I bark at her to “turn Uncle Joey DOWN.”
The internet and my conscience tell me I need to make more of an effort. I need to connect with her, play with her, bond with her, forge long-lasting memories EVERY DAY or I have failed.
I lower my popping joints to the floor and sort through thousands of tiny neon pieces of fused plastic to find the right shoes to sweatily cram on thick rubber doll legs only to feel her breath, heavy on my damp cheeks, informing me “SHE would NEVER wear those shoes.” Every puzzle we attempt I somehow get way more emotionally invested in it, subtly edging her out of the way so I can slam the last piece in with a satisfied “BOOYAH.” Our home nail salon always ends with our fingers, toes and bathroom floor coated in a sticky massacre of pastels.
My best efforts – rebuffed. My half-assed efforts – unappreciated. What’s a working Mom to do?
I found the answer in the most obvious of places: my love for cheesy music. If you show a 5-year-old girl the music video for ‘Wannabe’ by the Spice Girls, chances are HIGH she will demand to watch it again and tell you her favourite girl is the girl with yellow hair. (I winced but feel like I can swing her vote to the Ginger Spice side eventually.) Sure, I wasn’t thrilled with the line “If you want to be my lover…” but so far she hasn’t asked me what a “lover” is so maybe that bullet has been dodged. Or maybe she asked her teacher who will bring it up at the next Parent Teacher Meeting where I will deny everything.
Once I realized that music could be the bridge between our great divide, I got genuinely excited. A lot of my favourite albums are loud, stupid and absolutely appropriate for 5 year old ears.
My kid can relate to “When it’s time to party, we will party hard.” (Andrew WK)
My kid loves a spectacular over-the-top music video. (Taylor Swift)
My kid is curious about the slow simplicity of a country love ballad. (Johnny Cash)
Now, before bedtime, we have a special routine. We meet in the kitchen, press play on ‘Walk the Line’ and she becomes my dance teacher. As the guitar and drum and velvet voice marry, she leads us through big and wild and silly moves. We’re flailing up to the sky then rolling around on the floor. (GOD, those baseboards are gross up close.) We’re spinning and toe pointing. She finds this whole routine so spectacularly hysterical that she gets the lose-my-breath gasp-y laughs, which of course makes me laugh. Parenting is frustrating and ridiculous but then moments like this, crisp and bright and perfect, they slice through all the tough stuff and make you feel like: Yeah. I’m actually good at this.
Letting her lead this play is the best idea I’ve ever had. We’re making memories I don’t have a space for in her baby book, but they will be plucked from my brain every time I hear, ‘Walk the Line.’
She’ll be six soon and then seven and then…. I’ll be 39 and then 40 and then.
I’ll introduce her to new songs, we’ll dance new moves, I’ll eventually clean those greasy stained baseboards in the kitchen.
Changes will come, as they do, and one day she’ll choose the music and as long as it’s not nu metal, I will still dance with her and spin until I want to barf.
Changes will come, as they do, but I’ll remind her that I loved this time — and that laugh and her face exploding and the squishy feel of her fingers gripping mine tightly — even more than Johnny loved June.