I am a lion, born under the sign of Leo. Not only am I a lion, but I am also a fire dragon, if you consult my Chinese astrological sign. However, at this particular moment, there is a three-and-a-half year old ram singing away in the bathtub who might be my most cunning adversary yet.
Tonight my girlfriend is playing baseball, and my boyfriend (yep, I do love saying that) is off in the United States of America with the six year old member of the tribe seeing to a spontaneous family affair. I am left alone with one who I have affectionately referred to time and again as Monkey.
For the most part, suddenly finding myself in the midst of an instant-family has been an incredibly smooth transition for me. I mean sure, I still have moments when I’m nostalgic for hours alone at my Fortress, sipping wine, and trying to ease the ache inside my heart with words. Words for you, words for me, just words. I miss solo strolls along Roncesvalles, choosing groceries for the one and only meal I would cook, just for me. Sniffing nectarines, selecting shiny apples, treating myself to a beautiful bouquet of flowers for my table. This was romantic, in its own right, but my partners have a very healthy sense of the importance of grown up time, so now life is a lovely balance of the domestic and well, that other stuff.
Monkey keeps summoning me to tub-side…
Apparently Monkey is now Kelpie the Mermaid, and would like to henceforth be addressed as such. I can’t stop calling her “buddy” and she completely hates it. I’m unaware in fact of how frequently I use this handle until she’s scowling and grunting at me “That’s not my name!”.
The girls have generally been very accepting of my presence here. They know I have my own home to go to (which I’ve seen very little of lately), but that I spend a lot of time with them, sometimes (and those are the best times) with Arthur in tow. Arthur is delighted with his new pack, and so patient and gentle with the girls. I can’t help but feel that Monkey/Kelpie is challenging me to see where I fit in. Although her ferocious moments aren’t just reserved for me.
I’m told that the terrible twos often bleed into a much worse reality called Three. I’ve started consulting the Internet for parenting advice, since my learning curve is steep. Don’t get me wrong, Monkey is generally beyond adorable – clever, saucy, so funny, and super smart, but lately things have been challenging. She’s bursting at the seams sometimes, I think. Requests are demands, objections are shrieks, grunts, sometimes outright hollers. Last night, while left to deal with dinner supervision, I witnessed her coat both her arms in sour cream, gripping the table with her bare toes while staring me down defiantly. It was about the tenth time she barked “NO” at me that I decided it was time to walk Arthur, and I left her in the more than capable hands of daddy. I don’t ever want to raise my voice, and I felt like I was at my limit.
She pushes as far as she can, and then repents with bitter tears and a string of “sorry! sorry! sorry!”. In those moments we hold her and tell her we love her, and try to patiently explain that we are a pack, and that we must all compromise and be considerate and respectful of the other pack members.
I feel deeply challenged. She is Alpha, like me. She is flexing her muscles for the first time, and the way we negotiate this, she and I, will set the tone for the rest of our existence together. I think it must be one thing to grow with a child since baby-hood, but this is unbelievably intimidating sometimes. I don’t let on about this. Not to her, not to anyone really. I’m afraid she won’t take me seriously, so I remain patient but firm. I walk away from tantrums, I encourage quiet moments, and creative ways for her to take on responsibility and express herself to the rest of us. I stare her down calmly when she’s smearing herself with condiments.
At bedtime tonight (which happened before 9pm, I am proud to state) she insisted I stay and snuggle for a bit, which I was delighted to do. I tried to calm her by singing to her, and this actually worked. Her current favourites are Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which apparently she heard from me first, and Riverwide which she couldn’t possibly realize is actually a Sheryl Crow tune. Singing in soft, dulcet tones with her little fresh-from-the-bath smelling sweet self curled up beside me, tucked under my chin was the kind of heaven I’ve only dreamed of up until now. Soon she was sleeping, and after several moments, I untangled myself and stepped carefully from the room. This resulted in her waking almost immediately and shrieking indecipherable things at me. I attempted to calm her, but when the air-kicking started, I backed slowly out of the room with a “Goodnight Monkey. I love you, but I’m not going to listen to this.”
As it turns out, I’m in love with four people. One of them really likes to arm wrestle, and victory tastes sweet for both of us. She’s fast asleep now, and in the morning, she will cry out my name when I emerge from the bathroom and join her at the breakfast table, as if she is surprised and delighted to always find me there, despite knowing each night that I haven’t gone back to my own house.
And so tonight, the lion is victorious, and with my sleepy tawny head propped up by a pile of pillows, reclining on the sofa, I’m trolling the internet for the lyrics to my favourite songs from when I was a kidlet. I’m keeping Puff The Magic Dragon in my back pocket for emergencies only.
Stay tuned for stories of Barcelona…and hopefully photos!