Jessie: I have a game we can play. It’s called, “Get the house clean.”
Me: Oh, thank God. That sounds like a wonderful game!
Jessie: It is. Ok, here’s how we play. We both hold our breath and look at each other in the eyes and try not to blink.
Me: So, how does that get the house cleaned?
Jessie: Oh, well… we could change the name of the game.
My house is a wreck. Jessie loves art and tends to practice her passion in the living room and has an aversion to picking up her supplies afterwards. There’s glitter glue all over the table, blue and pink. She’s spread it like peanut butter on a sandwich so she can peel it off and have a big sheet of glitter glue later. Stickers. Paper of every color and texture. Crayons, markers, and colored pencils litter the floor; as well as a roll of wrapping paper that the dog has shredded. Jessie left it there because she was wrapping a book for Baby Ava, a friend’s baby. Jessie wants to give Ava her Dora book because at five and three-quarters, she is too old for such baby characters.
Hubby has put his foot down on actual glitter. I couldn’t get it up faster than Jessie could sprinkle it around the house.
During the time I have been writing about my life of Zen and kids, I find myself using Nathan, my son, for most of my life’s lesson stories. He has proven to be a very capable teacher. Jessie teaches me too – a ton about patience, especially with the messy living room. But for all of my lessons in patience, she teaches me equally about joy. She also teaches me about claiming a place in this world, for no other reason than being born.
She finds a way to make most everything into something funny. Even when she acts sassy and I start warning her, she will look me straight in the eye with her most serious face, put up her karate chop hands and say, “hi-yah”!
When she and her brother fight, which he usually instigates, she will not relent. She goes straight at him until he runs from her screaming. She’ll chase him down while wearing her fanciest princess dress-up dress.
I laugh a lot around Jessie.
I also see her as someone who sees her place in the world as her birthright. She’s plenty compliant, until she sees she’s being denied justice.
Nathan is still mad at me for having another baby. At seven, he will find a way to be mad at Jessie even if she smiles at him or gives him candy.
I think I would get my feelings hurt. But not Jessie. She just looks him straight in the eye and tells him the way things are going to be. And it’s not just her brother she will stand up to. She’s a tough cookie all around.
It was at her age now that my own parents divorced. Life changed, but I have no recollection of ever knowing or believing fully that I had a right to be here – to ask for what I wanted, and I’m not sure I even would have known how to ask anyway. I was tough, for sure, but eventually I backed down. Not sure of my own power. I had joy, but not the kind of joy that spews innately from my daughter. She oozes fun.
Jessie is a force – a force of joy, or a force of whatever emotion she is emitting at the moment. She’s loud, really loud. So when she wants something, man, you just want her to have it. I have to mentally prepare myself for a stand-off with her. But I don’t mind. She looks like me. She is a healing light for the me I was as a child. For all of the times I wanted to stand up and be counted, or stand up and be heard, or just be seen. She’s me, but she’s not me. She’s Jessie. My sweet, generous, loud, happy, messy girl. I’m grateful she’s in my life.
Today, I will tell Jessie, “I love you wholly, exactly as you are.”