Monday, March 19, 2012


Last night I was going for a fifth attempt at Haitian rice and beans while Don took Lucy down to the park to play for an hour or so.  It was vegan Friday, so the rice and beans were going to supplement our main dish of non-dairy cheese nachos, which I was very dubious about.  We have had very few stumbling blocks this Lenten season giving up meat, and those few stumbling blocks always seem to happen on vegan Fridays, when I forget that non-dairy creamer does contain milk products or Lucy shoves a cheddar bunny snack into my mouth.  But rice and beans are always welcome in our house, and I actually had the Haitian necessities of scallions, onions, garlic, shallot, hot peppers and bullion, so we were good to go!  Cheese disaster or no, at least there would be diri ak pwa!  (Note: I read a lot of online reviews of non-dairy cheese to try and figure out which brand and style to go with.  Soy based?  Tree nut based?  Does it melt?  We ended up trying a few different kinds of one brand, and I think I can safely say that barring any lifestyle changing illness or event, I will never be able to go vegan.  I.  Love.  Cheese.  And non-dairy cheese is NOT cheese.  Enough said.)

So I am frying up the spice mixture for the rice and beans when I get a text from Don down at the park:
            Lu’s got a crush on an older boy.

I run from the kitchen to our guest bedroom where I can see down to the playground out the window, and search for my beloved daughter, not yet two years old.  She is running around the big kid play area, trying to climb a chain link ladder to the upper level.  Don waves up at me while spotting her, and I text him back suggesting he destroy the boy, and then asking what he is wearing so I can try and spot him.  Lucy makes it to the top of the ladder just as I get the message that this alleged male interloper is twice Lucy’s age and is wearing a green shirt.

I message Don back, telling him I can’t believe she can climb that ladder now when she has been trying unsuccessfully for the last year.  I scan the playground for a boy in a green shirt, and finally spot him climbing up a rope onto the same piece of the castle that Lucy is playing on.  A series of completely irrational thoughts run through my mind.  Good God he is like five years old, Lucy what are you thinking?!  Oh…he likes to climb too.  That is so bad.  Climbers are trouble Lucy Jane, I should know.  Jesus how do we get her away from him without driving her further toward him?!

As I am embracing this irrationality I see the boy run past Lucy to the fireman’s pole and slide down out of sight.  Lucy runs after him, grabs the edge of the railing and leans out over the ten foot drop to see where he has gone.  My stomach drops and my heart explodes.  Jesus God, I am going to watch from my fucking window while my daughter falls down a fireman’s pole onto her head.  Shit!!!  I bang on the window to try and get Don’s attention, but he is on the other side of the castle from Lucy and making his way toward her nonchalantly, unaware that her newfound fascination will be the death of her in a few short seconds.  Finally, fully aware of the shitiness and irony of the situation I text him:
            She’s on the pole!!!!!

Of course by the time I have sent this ridiculous message she has backed away from the pole and run over to the twirly slide instead, having seen that her beau ran in that direction once he reached the ground.  I text a quick apology and retraction:
            Oh my God I just had a heart attack.  I’m sorry, I’m not watching anymore.

The reply:
            Stop it.  You’re killing me!

I go back into the kitchen to finish dinner, convinced that my voyeuristic communication with Don will cause Lucy some injury, and more than a little happy not to be taking part in the romantic drama unfolding.  Ten minutes later, I get another message from Don that has me running back to the window:
            She really badly wants this boy to push her on the swing, but doesn’t know how to ask him.  It’s ripping my heart out.  Mega flash forward.

I see my daughter, not yet two years old, on the large red recliner swing down in the park.  Don is standing off to the side, and when he moves in to push her she swings her arms at him in an obvious gesture of dismissal.  She then leans out of the other side of the swing, her arms extended toward something I can’t see.  A second later, the boy in the green shirt walks into view and starts to push her on the swing.  Lucy settles back into the swing in contentment, occasionally turning around to make some comment to the boy and check to see that he is still there. 

My heart explodes again.  I immediately go to the dry bar and make myself a Jack and Coke and go back to the window.  Don and I message back and forth about what she is doing.  I ask if this boy promised to honor and cherish her, and Don says that Lucy showed him the ouchie on her nose and then immediately pointed out that her boogers were in her nose.  Pure seduction to a five year old boy.  A few minutes later Lucy slides off of the swing, holds her hand up for the little boy to take, and they run off to ride the bouncy horses together.  In a few more minutes, she and the boy run back to the swings, and he faces him and lifts her arms up for this little five year old to lift her into the swing.  He does it without hesitation.  

My heart explodes a third time, and I see her life flash before my eyes.  She is thirteen, with a crush on a boy in her class, and she deliberately plays poorly in sports so that he will like her.  She is sixteen, desperate to be asked to the school dance but unable to tell him that she likes him.  She is eighteen, a freshman at college and all she wants is to be accepted and loved.  Does she make good choices?  Does she fall in love with nice boys?  Does she know that her own self-worth comes from inside, and is not assigned her by someone else?  Has she ever had her heart broken?  Does she know how strong, intelligent, and kind she is?  Does she care?  Do we know how to teach her all of these things?  Oh my God, we have to start now, right now!  It is already spinning out of our control!  Boy in the green shirt, what have you done?!

Don stands to the side of the swing set, now relegated to the role of chaperone and observer, no longer needed as a playmate.   He messages:
            He said “ufta” when he lifted her into the swing.  She gave him her barrette.  This is so masochistic.

I tell him dinner is ready and to bring her up.  A few minutes later Don walks in with Lucy in arms, and it’s clear she has been crying.  “Are you ok?” I ask him.  I know Lucy will be fine in two minutes after sitting her in front of a bowl of rice and beans.  But if my reaction to the situation was this strong just watching it through a window, then I know that Don is crumbling apart right now.

“His name is Carter.  He has a little sister just a little older than Lucy.  I think he was playing with Lucy like he plays with his sister…but I don’t think that she knew that.  Oh man…I need a drink.”

Our terror continued to hold us in sway for several days.  Don left for Mankato on Saturday morning, and that day I refused to take Lucy to the park by myself because St. Patrick’s Day at the park on a 75 degree day in Minnesota means that there are 167 five year old boys in green shirts running around.  It was just too much for me.  I finally got the chance to talk to a good friend about the whole episode on Saturday evening, as a few friends with kids got together at the local nature center for a picnic dinner.  As I was recounting the story, my humorous retelling an attempt to belie the feelings of true helplessness and terror that the episode actually produced, I noticed something that made the ache in my heart subsist.  Slightly.

Lucy was acting the same way with our friends’ five year old daughter.  She was following her around everywhere, eschewing the company of the adults and other toddlers her age for this older girls’ attention.  Is it a crush on a person, I wondered, Or just a crush on an age.  An idea of being older and everything that means.  To a toddler I suppose being older means running faster and playing with better toys and sitting on a big girl chair when you eat without a bib on and drinking juice instead of milk.  It seems pretty awesome.  So, no problem right?  It’s a crush on the ideal of the older kid, the freedom and the choices and the grass is greener on the other side.  Right?


Well, that is what we are prepared to tell ourselves for the foreseeable future, at least.  Unless you have a son that is wearing a green shirt, in which case please don’t bother coming over because you are no longer welcome.  Just kidding…?

1 comment:

  1. Crystal: Great writing and I'm so glad to watch you and Don blossom as a couple and as loving parents. You will encourage Lucy to swim, but not too far towards the deep end. You will encourage her to ride a bike, but not without training wheels. You will encourage her to have friends, but not boys with green shirts! Unfortunately, her heart will most likely be broken once or twice, and she will cry herself to sleep once or twice. But then, one day, she will find a boy in a green ND shirt and their hearts will connect and she will radiate with happiness...we have witnessed this first hand. Love ya, Matt