It’s funny what a big part of my life my kids are and yet how seemingly little I write specifically about them. I think it’s because somehow our relationships are so precious and complicated to me it seems virtually impossible to get any of that into a kind of digestible nutshell-like post. But all week I’ve been thinking I should try to write a little about my daughter Frances. Next week I’ll try to say something about Grace.
The older Frances gets, she’s seven now, the more her personality expresses itself and I see her becoming a complex version of the person she was at birth. It’s not that she isn’t changing, it’s that those changes just solidify the structure that was there from the start.
Childhood is the part of our lives when we are really who we are. I think the rest of it, the growing up and the conforming to society and trying to find our unique role in the fabric of our communities is all about balancing who we are with who we have to be to get along with everyone else. And that’s hard for most but it’s more of a challenge for some.
Sometimes I see a grown man, someone I don’t know, and I can see right through the gray hair and the glasses to the little boy who was crawling all over the other kids in his first grade class. I can see all the painful conformity and the compromises etched into his skin, but I also see the boy he once was shining through. I don’t see that as much with women, and I’m not completely sure why. Maybe it’s because we lose more of our original selves in that growing up process.
Frances struggles with girls. She doesn’t understand why friendship has to be so complicated or why it’s so important for one person to feel she is in charge. She seems perpetually new to the world, still confused by all the rules and the fact that she is expected to conform to them. She is demanding in the same way she was as a baby. Everything is, I want it and I want it now and I’m going to scream until I get it! Rules make no sense to her. Societal norms are bothersome. She has no patience for underwear, bedtimes, chores, polite phrases like please and thank you or with the way the girls at school expect her to play.
Frances loves animals for this reason. They don’t make demands on her and they appreciate her affections regardless of how she expresses them. She has a slightly oddball way of doing most things, looks at the world in surprising ways and she loves to make us all laugh. Once she asked me, Mom, what does raunt mean?
Raunt is not a word that I know of.
Well what do we do in a restaurant?”
We eat and relax
Do we rest?
So when do we raunt?
Lately she has been obsessed with the problem of the chicken or the egg. One day she was sitting in the back of the car eating a donut.
Mom, what gives you energy
What gives you brains?
You are born with your brains.
How do you make people?
Daddy and I made you.
But how do you make people when you’re not even born yet?
(pause) Do you mean who made the first person?
(Unwilling to explain the theory of evolution I answered thus) No one knows. It’s a mystery.
Oh. Then how do you know?
Frances is an astounding artist. I’m sure every parent thinks that and I actually think all kids are amazing artists. Most of us don’t manage to hang onto the artistic confidence that six year olds naturally have. But Frances is truly something special in this department. My husband and I are constantly saving her creations and putting them up on the wall. We show them to our friends who are artists too and we all marvel at her ability to make conceptual, aesthetically sophisticated work every day.
I hope she never loses that ability. I hope she never decides it’s a worthless skill or a pointless endeavor. But I also hope she pursues whatever she wants to do and doesn’t worry too much about conforming. Right now that means she’ll be going to veterinary school.