“Can you play with me, mamma? Or you won’t?”
These were my soon-to-be six daughter’s words this morning as I looked up from the phone and decided to give her another sermon.. on how her mamma needs time for herself too… and how, as a ‘big girl’ she should learn to play by herself. I was ready to do just that.
Then I noticed the sadness in her eyes and the unmistakable heaviness in her voice. She had said it with a tone of finality as if she already knew what my answer would be… and why not? She had heard that same retort so many times before.
My heart broke.
Putting the phone down on the floor next to me, I smiled at her. “What are we playing then?”
The smile on her face could have dimmed a hundred neon lights. It was beyond dazzling. The light was back in her eyes and her words danced with eager anticipation.
“Let’s make ghost cookies… like last week!”
I sat down on the floor opposite her and looked on in admiration as she brought out her multi-coloured play-doh, some soft, some rock-hard and waiting to be discarded, some in mysterious shades of purple, a result of her relentless experimentation, I guessed.
Oh no! That sticky mess again! My grown-up brain reminded me. But I ignored it.
“EWWW! Dragon poopies!” I squealed in rehearsed excitement, picking up a blob of that sickly-purple mess.
She chuckled delightedly, mirth pouring out from her voice like the happy song of a stream gurgling down a mountainous terrain. It filled me with a joy only mothers feel, perhaps.
She plopped down and brought out her rolling pin, plastic knives and doll-house plates.
“What are we making, mamma?”
Before her mamma could answer, the child in me giggled and exclaimed, “Let’s pretend its Halloween! Let’s make a cake full of froggies!”
She joined in with her giggles, thrilled that her mom was with her, participating in the activities she held dear, taking an interest, and most of all, listening to all that she wanted to say. Her mom was there!
We spent almost two hours making a Froggie cake, some colourful snake pasta, red-headed monsters with no bodies but each with one giant yellow eye, (her version of a cyclops), dragon poop pizza and much more!
Not once, in all this time, did I look at my phone! Clueless as I was about the fact that my inner child had taken over, we imagined a world of our own where we were witches getting ready for a Halloween Party! I was happily lost in my child’s world, spurring her imagination and mine.
Interspersed with dramatic, very un-witchy cackles, we had a fine time together. We giggled and ‘ewwww’ ed a lot, but most of all, we bonded.
My heart swelled with pride when she gushed, “I love your snakes mamma! Will you teach me, too?”
I nodded solemnly, ready to pass on this age-old wisdom to my daughter.
To all of us parents, who are in love with our cell phones, take a moment to look up at your child, at those eyes filled with wonder and that frank, curious smile. For, they really do grow up too fast.
Before we realize it, they will stop tugging at our sleeves and bursting to tell us their stories; they will stop believing in dragons, witches and fairies. One day, too soon, they will grow up and their world will change beyond recognition.
So, for now, let’s show them we care... let’s try and just be there!
Joyeeta is a mother, writer, teacher and a big-time dreamer. She believes that writing is her calling and loves to write about anything that touches her heart. She resides in Singapore and is currently getting ready to publish her first novel.