The Christmas season is in full swing at Casa de Katie – and you can just hold all your moans and groans because it almost undid me, and I think that’s punishment enough.
It happened not this weekend, but last. (It’s taken me a few days to adjust.) I was starting to pull out presents I had tucked away, get them all sorted into spreadsheets, and then, as a reward, wrap a few. Bee-girl was off playing with Xman and Gracie was just sort of tumbling about the house from one random project to another, and so I did what I seem to be doing a lot these days as Bee pairs off with the Xman instead of her sister – I asked Gracie to help me.
All of this bonus mama-and-Gracie time is great. We’re bonding at a time when we really need to be; it’s almost time for Gracie-boo to start teening hard, and I really want our relationship to be as rock solid as it can be before she starts hating me and rebelling and figuring out who she is apart from me. I like cranking open the lines of communication and having long pointless (no really) talks because she needs them. And I need her to know I’ll listen, even when I really don’t want to.
So we were hanging out, Christmas-ing. And when we were about to dive back into my closed-off room for Round Two when Bee got her feelings a bit trampled. She insisted on knowing what was going on. She knew it had something to do with Christmas. She knew we were wrapping presents. And finally she asked, “How can you have so many presents to wrap?”
There it was.
Look, Bee-girl is in 4th grade. She’s 9. Nine. She made it both further than we ever thought (she’s nine) and showed no signs of stopping at the same time (she was rock solid in her believe just days ago). But her dad and I had decided that if – when – she asked any more pointed questions, questions that showed she knew, that she was ready, we wouldn’t lie any more.
And so I told Bee that if she wanted to know, if she wanted me to confirm what she suspected, I would…but it might break her heart. I put it just like that so she could walk away. But that Bee-girl of mine figured it out (you could see the flash and fizzle in her eyes), squared her chin, and said yes she did want to know.
So I told her. And then I prepared for the worst. Bee is so spirited, so full of whimsy and magic and pure belief, I thought for sure she would be my princess who cried. After all, two summers ago she had cried when she found out that the little slimy plastic dinosaurs who hatch from eggs when placed in jars of water weren’t real, live dinosaurs. This Santa thing was going to destroy her.
Only it didn’t. She instantly declared that she didn’t believe me. My jaw might have dropped open. I might have started arguing with her in a yes-it-is, no-it-isn’t sort of way. Then I asked if she wanted to see a present all wrapped and labeled from Santa to show her it really, truly was me. When I showed her one that Gracie and I had just wrapped, her shoulder sagged even as she I-TOLD-YOU-SO insisted that she had known for a Christmas or two but didn’t want to say anything. And then immediately asked if she could wrap Gracie’s presents since Gracie was wrapping hers. She wanted – no, she demanded – in on the sneakery. And that is kind of when I smacked myself upside the head for not counting on brave, never-let-them-see-me-cry, sneaky Bee-girl to save the day. Yes, she is full of whimsy, but how had I forgotten how stubborn and sneaky and AWESOME my kid is? Of course that’s how things played out.
So it turned out once again that I was left asking my child if she wanted to cry a little, and my child staring at me like I was nuts. I am, a little. Or a lot. We went through the routine about not telling anyone and how it’s up to us to make sure the Xman believes for years and years and Bee rallied like I had told her the Battle of Britain was entirely up to her.
We’re down one believer in the house. My heart hurts – god, the ache is crazy – to think that I have no more believers. But then I remember that the universe brought me another Little and that we still get to pretend. It’s like I’m being gently ushered into Grown-Up Land, myself.
Dang those kids of mine for making it so hard to go kicking and screaming, and instead making grace the answer. Guess I’ll have to do it their way: with sneakiness and strategery and big, big hearts.