With Aviva on the Raft

Today we all went to my mother-in-law’s neighborhood for the Fourth of July. She lives near the lake, and after a short parade, some watermelon, the requisite hot dogs and potato salad on red-white-and-blue paper plates, and a truck-bed filled with icy cold cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and sticky grape soda, we bee-lined it down the stairs to the lake.

There was actually a little bit of beach, and the water, while not warm, came as a relief from the heat and, for me, the schmoozing too. I haven’t been so schmoozy lately. I have, however, been welcoming every opportunity to get wet, to swim, to move through water, to feel that transformation from lugging myself around on land to gliding, feeling supported, buoyant, smooth.

So we all changed, joking that the neighborhood association would no doubt escort us out if they saw us slipping our clothes off and our suits on in a less-than-entirely-private spot. But whatever. And then we waded into the water, which is shallow forever in that particular spot – making it great for kiddos and torturous for grown-ups like me who tend to be chickenshit about just jumping in and find it easier to do when there’s some kind of depth to jump into. (Is that a metaphor? Probably. You decide.)

Aviva snagged Pearl’s Spiderman floaties and swam all the way out to the raft with Greg. I hung out with Pearlie in the shallows. She was exuberant about her version of swimming, which consisted of madly paddling her arms and running her feet along the bottom, lifting them here and there, just nearly really swimming. I tell you, that kid loves water. She comes to life, her little peanut face just radiating delight in her boy surfer shorts, shirtless, “twins” with her dada. She is so freakin’ yummy.

Greg and Aviva swam back, and V wanted me to go with her to the raft this time, a raft I’ve written about before. When we got there, we climbed up the metal ladder and lay down on the wooden planks. There wasn’t too much bird shit, which can sometimes be a bit of an issue out there, so there was that going for us.

I touched her hand and told her that this was exactly what I’d been wanting all day, some time just with her. The raft rocked gently as motor boats passed by further out. We sat up. And then I told her I had a question for her. She waited.

“When can we have a mama date?” she asked.

I promised we’d do that one day this week after camp. And then I said, “I’ve noticed the last couple of days that you have had these times of not wanting me anywhere near you… where you seem really mad, or sad, or worried…”

At this point, my astute going-on-eight-year-old daughter interrupted me. “That’s not a question.”

“I’m getting to the question part,” I told her. “It seems like when you don’t get what you want, you get really mad and then you shut down. What is going on for you in those times? Can you describe it?”

She looked at me, her preternaturally deep blue eyes blinking. I could tell she was thinking about it, so I waited a long time, giving her space to just think instead of jumping in like I so often do, preempting the process, short-circuiting the answer, interfering. (Or maybe that’s just me being hard on myself.)

Finally, she spoke. “I can’t describe it. It’s really hard to describe.”

I told her that was ok. I asked her if she would try.

She thought some more, and then here’s what she said, I kid you not.

“Well, the thing is… I get very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very… frustrated.”

I nodded.

“So, when you get very, very, very, very, very, very (I can’t do as many as you did) frustrated, the only thing I really know to do is to walk away from you.”

She looked right at me. My teacher. Telling me how to do her. “That’s what you should do.”

Woah. I nodded again. But I needed to say something else.

“The thing is, V, even when I walk away, I need you to know that I am still there for you, for you to come to me when you’re ready. Do you know that?”

She nodded.

“Always,” I said.

I kissed her head. Thanked her. She put the floaties around her ankles just to see what would happen, and we both jumped back into the cold water.

“Mama! Mama! They’re coming off!”

I coached her back to the ladder. We switched the floaties back to her strong little biceps, then swam back to shore, back into the fold where everything plays out, where she will get frustrated, and I will walk away, and she will come find me when she’s ready, and I will be there, waiting. Always.

6 thoughts on “With Aviva on the Raft

  1. Holly says:

    So very sweet; can’t help but wonder how it would have been had my mother conversed with me like that – oh how times change!!

    Like

  2. Pingback: July Goodies

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