Two nights ago, I was putting Simone to bed. Every night, she gets to pick out five books to read in bed (they’re short books). One of the books she picked up was Peter Rabbit. I started reading, and then she stopped me. For the first time, she realized that Peter didn’t have a daddy.
“What does Peter have instead of a daddy?”
“Peter doesn’t have anything instead of a daddy. He just has a mommy.”
“Where is Peter’s daddy?”
“He, um, Mr. McGregor caught him and, um, had him in a pie.”
Silence and a confused look.
The next book we were reading is called Kiss Goodnight. It’s a simple story about a mother (bear) putting her son (also a bear) to bed. In the middle she stopped me.
“Daddy, I can’t read this book.” (She has started to memorize some of he shorter books.) “It is too big. But I think when I am bigger I will be able to read this book to you.”
“Yes, you will.”
“Will I have a daddy when I’m bigger?”
Cue sobbing, hugging, and assurances that yes, of course she would.
I was not prepared for that conversation. I doubt any parent is ever really prepared for it. And though it clearly affected me much more than Simone, it made something clear. Simone is growing in leaps and bounds right now. She is no longer constrained to the internal world of the very small child. She is not only aware of those outside her, she is aware that they have different lives and different circumstances than she does. She might not have the context for that situation to make sense, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to understand. “Why” questions are really big in our house right now.
I know I should have seen something like this coming. I’m sure, when we were getting ready for her, I read something about it in a book, but the thing you can’t be prepared for until you experience it is how fast small children grow and change. I am teaching a couple of new classes this year and it has practically turned me upside down. Simone just realized that not everyone has a daddy and that she might not always have a daddy. That kind of put things in perspective.
But in the end, I’m thrilled by all of it, even the parts the make me cry or annoy the hell out of me. It’s fascinating to watch and it’s gratifying to see my daughter turning into the smart, caring person I hope she’ll be.