Big girl now

I had a flu this week and 127 papers to grade, so my first week of single-parenting should have been really hard. But it actually wasn’t bad. I still have 24 papers to grade, but at least that means I finished 103 of them in less than a week. I have finally accepted that I need to take flu medicine, too, and throughout all this week Sophie has been in the kind of good mood in which she keeps taking my cheeks in both of her cute little hands in order to more deliberately kiss me.

This morning, I was trying to turn on the computer to skype Ben, in the one part of the day when we can talk to each other despite the time difference. We’ve gotten the skype video-phone thing to work on the computer twice this week, and it makes Sophie dance in front of the computer while she repeats “Hi daddy!” and then attempts to feed her cereal to his video-image. Yesterday they even played peek-a-boo through the video-phone. It’s been adorable, but I couldn’t get skype to work this morning. I couldn’t even get the internet connected this morning. I kept running our repair-wifi-program, and turning the laptop off and on again, and even trying our other laptop. I was tapping out computer commands while also trying to get Sophie dressed, cleaned, and fed; and do the dishes & clean the kitchen; and also, eventually, get myself dressed, cleaned, and fed. Eventually I got to some program that told me to disconnect the router, wait 60 seconds, and start it up again — and those are commands I can handle much better than the “broken IP address” stuff I had been getting.

While I was doing all this computer-fiddling in between cereal-pouring, Sophie asked me, “Momma, sing?” So I stopped all that electronic fussing and morning-hurrying and, instead, I sang Sophie “Wishy Washy Washer People.” We danced around the living room, twirling with each “Oooh, ahh” and “la-di-da-di” in that song. (Is it even a song that anyone else knows? I learned it way back in Yale Children’s Theater, and now can’t get it out of my head.) Sophie liked it so much that she asked for it 3 more times. And after that, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t get the skype working. I couldn’t show Sophie her daddy, but at least I could sing and dance with her, and that was all that mattered.

That’s my favorite thing about Sophie: her capacity for relishing the present moment.

This evening, when I picked her up from daycare after enduring two hours in Friday-afternoon traffic (and leaving my departmental meeting early, because I knew I had to get to daycare by 5pm, when it closes), Sophie asked for the “Wishy Washy Washer People” dance again. It’s a great new tradition now.

Single-parenting is a lot of work, but it’s not impossible. I’m the only one around to do the dishes, take out the garbage, keep the household running – but then again, I’m also the only one around who is dirtying the dishes (other than Sophie), so some household tasks are easier. Still, it feels like there’s no down-time. It feels a little like college: it’s an impossibly busy few weeks, but eventually the semester will be over and I’ll get to rest again. I hope. I’m a little old for re-living my undergraduate days, but I know that I can do it. Even though yesterday I spent five minutes looking for the top to the milk-bottle, before finally realizing that the top was already on the milk-bottle.

For a long time now, Sophie has been referring to herself as “Baby.” She likes to name the towels in the bathroom: “Daddy towel, Mamma towel, baby towel.” It actually took a while to teach her that her name is “Sophie,” not “Baby.” But this morning, we were talking about something while she got dressed — pulling on her own pants almost without help and almost without a struggle — and I think I mentioned that her socks were “Sophie’s baby socks.” She looked at me, frowned, and announced, “I big girl.” She repeated it a couple times for good measure, pointing to herself and emphasizing, “Big girl.” She can’t say a completely grammatical sentence, but that’s okay, she has made her announcement, and she’s right: she’s a big girl now.

And parenting a big girl means that my single-parenting task isn’t as onerous as it would have been a few months ago. Sophie is a big girl now, and she has adapted unusually well.

On Wednesdays, I work late, so Ben usually picks Sophie up from daycare, makes her dinner, and eventually puts her to bed. Now that Ben’s gone, I had to hire our friend Raquel to do the wednesday-evening childcare for the next month. Sophie was startled to be leaving daycare with someone who wasn’t Momma or Daddy. She cried in Raquel’s car, but once they got here, to her familiar home, Sophie was actually okay. Raquel’s two elementary-age kids fussed over Sophie, building her a lego-house, drawing her a rainbow, reading her every book on her shelf. I got home by 7:45, just in time to give Sophie her last kiss goodnight, and to hear Sophie say so sweetly, “Bye bye ‘quel.”

She truly is getting to be a big girl now.

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