Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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What if My Daughter Grows Up to be a Brat... Part III

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 I stuck Dr. Cow through the door first, using my right hand, and said in my best cow voice, “Hello, Norah. Dr. Cow here. Would you like to talk?”
Norah was sprawled out on her bed, head and arms hanging over the side. But once she saw Dr. Cow, she sat up and let out the softest little giggle. She nodded with a big smile, and I entered the room. I sat down on the lip of Norah’s bed and she reached out and gave Dr. Cow a big hug, like they were old friends that hadn’t seen each other for some time. Norah’s face was still a little flushed from her fit and her hair was sprawled and tangled. One of her sunflower barrettes was missing.
Dr. Cow asked Norah why she was in her room and Norah said it was because her Daddy was a stinky mean face and didn’t like her.
“Oh, Norah,” Dr. Cow said, “That’s not true. Your Dad loves you tons and tons.”
Norah stuck out her lips and shook her head side to side.

“But he does love you,” Dr. Cow said. “You are one of his favorite people. He loves you more than his bicycles. He loves you more than his shoes. He even loves you more than bacon.”
I think using Dr. Cow had as much of an impact on Norah as it did on me. It granted me the opportunity to give Norah an outsider’s opinion on how I felt about her. I’m not the greatest at expressing my emotions. But with Dr. Cow, it felt like the two of us had a trusted friend, an intermediary, that could tell Norah my true feelings about her. I told Norah that I loved her several times a day, but there was something about saying it through Dr. Cow that helped solidify its meaning. It made it easier for me to get a little mushy, a little emotional, to say things to Norah that I always wanted to say, but didn’t really know how too. Dr. Cow made my words seem more real, more sincere, even though he was really a puppet.
And like Norah often does with Dr.Cow, she started to open up. She said that she just really wanted to watch Bratz, and that it was just a really funny show. She spoke like she’d watched the show before, but I’m pretty sure she hadn’t. Then she wished Daddy would just let her watch it even if he didn’t like the show.
I let her talk, and every once in a while Dr. Cow would nod and say, “Hmmmm.” Once she was done talking, she let out a big exhale, like she was really relieved to have gotten all that off her chest.
Then she said, “Maybe I can watch it when I’m big.”
Norah often said, “When I’m big,” when referring to things she might be too young for.  I decided Norah saw this as some undefined life stage where more independent thoughts and actions can happen without parental intervention. In my mind, this age of independence Norah often spoke of was somewhere between ages 27 and 30, while I am confident Norah imagined it somewhere between 5 and 7.
 Although it felt like I was kicking the problem down the road, Dr. Cow said, “I think that sounds like a good plan. Let’s just worry about that show when you’re big.”
Norah smiled and gave Dr. Cow a bug hug. And although she’d been talking to Dr. Cow as though I weren’t there, Norah suddenly looked me in the eyes. Then she stood on her bed and gave me one of her signature “jumping hugs.” This is where she, more or less, attempts to tackle me.

Two days later Mel and I were at Tristan’s soccer practice. It was held on a large patch of grass near the Albany, Oregon high school, an old red brick building that was within view of the high school football field. Mel and I were standing at the top of the steps leading to the school’s front door. We often sat there because Mel was a couple months pregnant, just starting to show, and she liked having the steps to sit on.  We could also see Tristan practicing to our left, Norah playing near the sidewalk in front of us, and the evening janitor riding a razor scooter inside the empty school building.
Norah was dancing. She was in a pink spaghetti string dress with a pink t-shirt underneath. Earlier, Norah asked me to sing to her. So I hummed the theme song to the old 70s Batman T.V. show, but added my own lyrics, “Na na na na, Norah. Cute face. Little.”
She twirled, and pranced, and skipped to the music and Mel laughed at the song and commented on how cute Norah was. After a few minutes of dancing, Norah sat down on the ground and announced that she was tired and needed a break. And during the interlude, I told Mel what happened two days ago. How Norah had thrown a fit about watching Bratz and I had to intervene with Dr. Cow.
“Ugh…” Mel said, “I hate that show. Those girls are trashy.”
I nodded and told her about some of my fears about Norah.
“I just want her to grow up and become something really special. But I’m not sure what that looks like.” I paused for a moment, “But I don’t think it looks like the girls on Bratz.”
Mel nodded.
“Do you ever worry that Norah will grow up to be a snarky brat?” I asked.
“Sometimes,” She said with a half smile.
“Do you think we will still be able to love her?”
Before Mel had the chanced to answer, Norah tugged on my arm.
“Dad!” She said, “Daddy!!! Freaking look at me!”
I looked down at her. “Come on. We need to get on the rocket ship.” 

Norah pulled me to a black hand railing. She climbed up it and sat down. I sat down behind her. She counted down, “Three, two, one, blast off!” Then she started making rocket sounds, her arms stretched out like wings, her body tipping side to side as we navigated through space at warp speed. And for a moment I stopped worrying about what she would be like once she grew up. I just thought about the moment. I thought about how cute she was being. I felt warmness in my chest, something I often felt when Norah was around.
Once the rocket ride was over, I helped Norah down to the handrail. Then she tugged me down into a crouching position, put her soft hands on my cheeks, and said, “You’re cute, Daddy.”
I kissed her on the forehead and said, “So are you.”
Then I looked over at Mel, who was still sitting on the steps, smiling at us. I didn’t say anything. I just smiled back. And although Mel didn’t answer if we will still be able to love a snarky brat, suddenly it didn’t seem to matter. And I remember thinking to myself, I’ll worry about that once she gets big.

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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University.