“Pretend I’m the Mommy and you’re the sister and we’re going on a trip.” She scrambles onto the couch.
“Ok. What’s my name?” I like to really get into my role.
“Rose.” She always picks Rose. I pretend I’m not curious as to why.
We sit on the airplane that is really our couch. She hands over imaginary snacks. Asks me if I want the iPad. She’s traveled quite a bit this year. She’s got this whole airplane routine down. I say ‘no’ to the iPad, thinking I’m setting an example, that maybe she’ll choose to read or color or something else entirely the next time we buckle in and get ready for take off. I don’t know who I think I’m kidding. Or why it feels important.
“Pretend it’s time to go to sleep now.” I am good at this part. I rest my head back. Close my eyes. She cuts pretend sleep short to pretend that we are there. We get off the plane. But this is where the story tends to fall apart. The fun, of course, is in pretending to get there.
I’m pretty good at pretending. Pretending, in fact, is sometimes the thing that gets me through the day without a hiccup. For example, in the past 24 hours I have pretended that I do not have a summer cold, that my throat is raw due to allergies, that I wasn’t watching her rehearse when I showed up early at dance camp, that I am totally at ease when leaving my son with a new nanny on a Monday morning.
“Pretend you don’t see us.”
She runs through the kitchen and he follows her, blankets sweep across the floor behind them. They run to the couch, curl together, and toss the blankets over their heads. She makes sure toes are tucked under, no elbow is sticking out, every hair is covered.
“Come find us! Pretend you need to put this blanket in the laundry!”
I tiptoe into the living room. I pretend I don’t know they are under there. I pretend to lay down to take a nap on top of them, to toss the blankets into the laundry. He can’t stop the giggles when he feels me near. She holds back for as long as she can. Pretending to be a blanket. But eventually she can’t hold it anymore and they laugh together.
I pretend that their growing doesn’t cause me pain. That I am more excited by her new ability to reach things she couldn’t before and do things she used to need help with. I pretend that I am only excited by the end of Kindergarten and the looming first day of first grade. I pretend that my excitement for him to begin school, for me to have my days back so that I can get back to working, isn’t mixed with longing and sadness for a time that is ending. I pretend that I am more sad and longing than I really am.
She pretends to be asleep. We bound into her room where the sun is shining through the blinds that fail at their job and he is on her bed in an instant.
“Wake up!” he shakes her, “Is time to wake up!”
But she keeps her eyes closed tight, her face at rest. She works hard to not smile or peek between lashes. This game could go on forever. So we leave her there. We get him dressed and when we come back she is still pretending to be asleep. But now she is fully clothed. We pretend she is a magician.
I pretend that I know what I’m doing. That I’m confident in my parenting of them. That I feel good about my steps and that my moves are thought out and well reasoned and planned. I pretend that I’m not winging it. In front of them, I pretend that I have all the answers.
And I pretend that I am ok. That the heaviness doesn’t wear on me. That I’m not terrified that I’ve messed them up already. That I’m not broken to tears by the all of it all. I pretend that I was built for this life. That I’m not building as I go.
She asks to listen to our road trip playlist. This is no road trip but I put it on anyway and we drive and hum along. A song comes on that reminds me of her, age three, finishing her first year of preschool, so small and sweet and singing so boldly. It feels so long ago. I pretend that I have nothing but love for this song. That its notes and words don’t make me cry. Usually I pretend that the emotion that stirs inside me for her every minute of the day isn’t really there.
And then, I pretend I am brave enough to speak emotion.
“You know, this song makes my heart hurt.”
For a beat she doesn’t say anything. And then she asks why.
I pretend that telling her this comes naturally. I tell her that this song reminds me of her. I describe the memories it calls back, the pride, the longing, remembering the sweetness. I pretend to be wise about such things and I tell her that it isn’t a bad hurt. I pretend to have something in my eye.
She doesn’t say anything. But I can tell by her soft sigh that she takes it in. And I pretend that is good enough for now.
Linking up with Lisa for 1-word. I chose ‘pretend.’