Watching Sophie Eat a Strawberry

I post so much about the less-pleasant side effects of parenting (sleep deprivation, principally, along with this odd sense of guilt at not achieving Perfection, Enlightenment, and Buddhahood of Momness). Anyway, I decided it was time to post about the more glorious side effects of parenting, the fringe benefits I didn’t even expect.

I get to be the pied piper at the playground. Sophie and I often play at a little cafe-like window built underneath the slide at our local playground. She pours sand on the counter-like surface, I ask for something ridiculous like Pickle Pizza please, she passes me some of the counter-top sand, and I pay her with more sand. Other kids gravitate around. The other day, one girl started making us sand-strawberry-pies, another boy declared it was a sand-juice-bar, and a slightly-older boy announced that he was calculating the percentage of sand-tip owed on the juice. It was adorable. These kid’s own parents are often sitting clear across the park or else interfering far too much (“No, you have to make your strawberry pie round, not square!” ordered the grandpa of the poor girl making that sand pie.) I get to feel like the coolest parent around. The kids often ask me for help tying a shoe or blowing up a balloon. Sand-cafe sometimes segues into Dinosaur-Dig (if anyone has brought toy dinos, we get to bury them and then pretend to be archeologists), or just tag, or some other fun game. Parenting can be lonely, but not when the Pied Piper affect kicks in at the park. I really like kids who can talk in full sentences, and without Sophie around, I would never get to play with them this much.

I have astounding arm muscles. Better than when I was rock-climbing twice a week, almost better than the summer I spent planting 800-pound trees: simply carrying around 23-pounds of Sophie on a regular basis has done wonders for my arms. They don’t look as good as in my tree-planting days (I suspect my body will never look that good again), but they feel stronger. I can now do handstands in yoga class, no problem.

I know most of my neighbors. Sophie used to require a walk around the block before every naptime, and even now that she has more efficient ways of getting to sleep, Sophie still likes walking. She asks for a walk after almost every meal. She likes to check out the seasonal decorations, the dogs, the birds, the moon, and especially the trash-truck. She is one of the stars of our neighborhood. Without her, I would never have met Donna or Kelly or many other friends, and that’s not even counting the mom-friends that Sophie has brought me.

I get to keep in touch with people with this blog.

I get to do Sophie’s hair in pigtails. Even better, she doesn’t much care about symmetry. Yesterday I gave her three pigtails. The day before, four. I’ll try to upload photos soon. I know that she’s not a doll to decorate, but, sheesh, doing her hair is fun.

I get to dance as goofily as I want to. Sophie doesn’t judge my dancing. Yet. She just joins in, then invents new arm-flapping knee-flexing goofiness moves.

I get to be insanely proud of Sophie’s little accomplishments. It is a twisted kind of displaced-narcissism, I think, but every parent is entitled to it. Sophie learns a new word almost every day! Sophie actually covers her mouth when she coughs! Sophie likes to run up to our adult guests and offer them her toys! I think she”s adorable and sweetly generous, and I’m immensely proud, even if not every guest actually wants a plastic dinosaur.

I get to feel Sophie’s hugs, with her little hands wrapped around my neck. Yesterday at the local bike shop, Sophie decided that it was best to get a running start, tilting down the aisle before leaping into the arms of her favorite bike mechanic, DanB, who agreed that she does indeed give marvelous hugs.

I get to stop and smell the roses. And the mailboxes, and the palm-fronds, and whatever else Sophie gets interested in. It’s not just an olfactory slowing-down: it’s the glory of watching Sophie discover a strawberry, experimentally turning it around, investigating the best way to eat it. At its worst, all this rose-smelling can make me impatient, but at its best, parenting keeps me in the present moment, awake and delighted.

I get to cure almost any problem with a kiss and a hug. I know this won’t last, I know I won’t always be superwoman in her eyes (in fact, I already feel guilty for not being Omnipotent Supermom), I know there will be injuries that can’t be simply kissed away, but for now, it feels pretty darn good to solve so many things with a kiss and a hug. Sophie, in her beautiful independence, has starting trying to kiss her own toe whenever she stubs it. I’m so proud. This post could quickly loop into a cycle of corniness.

So I’d better stop. Tomorrow I’ll be back to writing about the incessant necessity of wiping snot from her nose — but today I’m not apologizing for my sentimentality.

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