There is a funny cartoon that’s been circulating in the social media lately, about what doing house work is like with and without kids. I couldn’t help but empathize and laugh so hard that my scar hurts. I want to supplement that cartoon with post-op recovery without kids: rest, rest, rest until you feel rested. With kids: rest until your kid bounces into bed with her big smiley face so bright you feel guilty resting in bed and so you get up to “play” with her.
My daughter is a Mama’s girl by far since day one. I remember the newborn days when Monkey King would be holding Little Plum outside of the bathroom, wailing her little heart out while I took a much needed, albeit hurried, shower. We did everything together. We were inseparable by choice, Plumster’s choice. At first, I thought it was purely biologic. This little animal viewed me as her source of food, therefore she simply cannot let me out of her sight. It was a survivor’s instinct, I reasoned.
Months went by, then years. Somehow this little animal still can’t let me out of her sight. That is not to say that Plumster does not get along with her father. She likes to hang out with her Dad, but preferably in my presence. His humor and wit always puts us into uncontrollable roar of laughter that we literally roll off our chairs howling. His encyclopedic knowledge is something we rely on often when faced with inevitable questions such as “which state has the nickname, ‘Heart of Dixie?”, or “what does URL stand for?”
And so Spring Break is probably not the best time for a restful post-op recovery period because this little animal’s mama is literally immobile and hers for the taking. Instead of snowboarding with access to the Ansel Adams Wilderness as we had planned awhile back, we remain home-bound, with me shuffling around from Point A to Point B. But also instead of resting in bed, Mama is up and shuffling about going to the backyard to pick flowers with her. Mama has to come along to her martial art class with her and Daddy. Mama comes along to walk the dog around the neighborhood. Mama comes along to get ice cream with her at the ice cream shop. I do these willingly –to make her happy– as I have fallen under her spell since conception. But these seemingly innocuous activities often leave me breathless and exhausted. I need to think fast, what can we do that doesn’t require me to walk too much. So we play the “Who can guess that Chinese Character first?” game, where Monkey King and Plumster compete through a stack of her Chinese words from school. That is actually really exciting and fun. We play the piano; we read; we watch a couple of movies on DVD, anything that does not require me to shuffle around too much.
After a couple of days of Spring Break, my analytical instinct kicks in. Why is it that this almost six-year-old little animal is still so attached to her mama? She knows that I am not her only food source. She knows that her father loves her and is perfectly capable of taking care of her by himself. Why is it then, that she insists on my constant company?
One morning, we watched “The Wizard of Oz”, starring Judy Garland. The heroic journey in search of a heart, a brain, courage and home was displayed in its original glorious technicolor. At the end, everyone found what they were looking for and Dorothy found out that there is no place like home. After the movie, Plumster set out to work at her desk and left me to take a much needed nap. 30 minutes later , she bounced into bed and declared, “I have a letter for you!”, with her big smiley face so bright I feel guilty to be lying in bed. It read, “Dear Mama, thank you for watching The ‘Wisard’ of Oz with me. I liked it so much. You are so important to me that you are like the ‘Rubie’ slippers to me. Love, Plum”
Then it finally dawned on me. True, it was the little animal’s survival instinct that latched her onto her mama for food and shelter. After that, all the moments big and small weaved together. Those late nights when she was a newborn, I found out that doing repeated squats actually soothed her, and so I did, averaging 800 each time. The countless nights we tried but failed the Ferber method miserably, because I just could not understand for the life of me why leaving your baby to cry and fend for herself was ever a good idea. Those early days when she was learning to crawl, she began in reverse. So when she meant to crawl towards me, she managed to crawl backwards, getting herself further and further away until she cried out in panic and frustration. I would pick her up softly and sang to her. The nights she slept next to me on the fold-out sofa bed in my office during the months I studied for my board examination so that we can spend some precious time together, even though Dr Richard Ferber would surely disapprove. Those sunny mornings when she waved excitedly to me while I sprinted toward the finish line at a 10k race. Saturday afternoons with us sitting side-by-side on her piano bench, playing the left hand side, then switched to the right hand side, until both hands were playing in harmony.
With the “Ruby Slippers” metaphor, she let me know as clear as the recently witnessed brilliant rainbow in sunset and in no uncertain term, that Mama is what takes her home. She is almost six and she just taught me a life lesson. I picked up my phone and dialed my own mother’s number. Mom has been worried sick about me and wishes that she is with me throughout the entire ordeal. I had declined her offer to come help, believing that we should be fine by ourselves. She’d ask what my meals consist of, how much sleep I am getting, in the typical worried voice reserved for mothers with sick children. I’d reply dutifully what I am eating, and ask her which foods are considered “cold” or “hot”, thus their appropriateness as post-op nutrition according to traditional Chinese medicine in the typical voice of sick children with mothers who worry. With all that growing up and growing a family of my own, little did I know that I should have graciously accepted Mom’s kindness and generosity.
Because Mothers are Ruby Slippers.