This is a picture of my daughter when she was about 14 months old. I love this picture, it’s one of my favorites especially because she’s not smiling. For whatever reason, I have a fondness for pictures without smiles. Even without a huge grin on her face, the picture truly captures her personality and, I think shows how beautiful she is. I remember when the pictures arrived and I was so excited to share them with friends and family. I showed them to one friend who remarked almost immediately at how her expression is so telling. “It’s like she knows stuff” my friend Kay said to me. “This little girl knows more than you think!” Of course we laughed about it but for years Kay’s reaction has stayed with me and I often find myself going back to this picture in my mind and wondering, just how much exactly does she know? How much more does she know then she is actually letting on? After our conversation over lunch recently I wonder if she does, in fact, know more than me…
Audrey has grandparents on both sides of her family. Lucky for her she actually has a great-grandmother on Brian’s side! On my side she has three grandparents. My mother is Sugar, my step-father is Opa, and my father is Pere. I have not up until this point discussed much about this arrangement except that Audrey knows they are all part of her family and that they all love her very much. She knows, clearly that Pere is my dad and Sugar is my mom but how Opa fits into the picture hasn’t actually been discussed. There is no real reason to anyway. All three of them are part of our family and we all love and care about one another.
We had an impromptu lunch date recently while we were waiting out a bad rainstorm. It was really more like a snack since our “lunch” consisted of french fries and chocolate malts! We had just left a clothing store where Audrey talked a lot about how much Sugar would love it. “Oh mom look, Sugar would love this!” She told the saleslady how her Sugar loves the color orange and that she would just love the jewelry. Fresh on her mind she posed a question, “Mom, did Sugar marry Opa?” From the moment I saw her lips forming the words I knew exactly the path down which we were headed.
“Yes, Sugar and Opa are married. Why?”
“Well, how can Sugar marry Opa if she was married to Pere?”
As the whirl of the blenders seemed to become the only thing I could hear, I began to mentally prepare carefully for my next steps. How can you possibly know to even ask this? How in the world do I explain this? Is divorce a topic to discuss with my four-year-old?
I was honest. She had a valid, albeit surprisingly deep, question. I told her that Sugar and Pere were married but that they aren’t anymore. I told her that the adult word is called ‘divorce.’ She pulled a face at that so I reframed it and said that they broke up. “You mean they don’t like each other anymore?” Oh my precious, precious child. I felt like I was looking into the soul of wisdom tucked inside a four-year-old body. With curls.
Again I was honest. “That’s part of it, yes.”
The conversation ended as quickly as it started. My answers and explanations were all that she needed. I reminded her again that what’s most important is that everyone loves her and that we all love each other. Families come in all shapes and sizes and it’s the love we have for each other is all that really matters.
As I enjoyed the last few sips of my malt and saw this picture in my mind and I thought about Kay remarking how she looks so wise. I wonder for a moment where this beautiful, wonderful soul will lead us next. Clearly I am not leading these adventures. No, I am at least smart enough to recognize that I’m here to nurture and support her; not direct her.
The week after she was born I wrote in her baby book about my greatest wishes for her. My wish for both of my children is for their world to be bigger than mine. I have this flicker of a sense sometimes that she will easily soar beyond the limits to have her world be just as big as she wants it to be.