“Can I have some?” my eldest daughter asks, pointing to my Luna Bar.
“Okay, but just a bite,” I say peeling back the foil and lowering the bar to her mouth.
Seconds pass before she asks “can I have some more?”
This constant tug of war between me and my daughters often baffles me. As an only child I was never required to share with brothers or sisters, always accustomed to getting the last cookie in the bag since my mom saved the last of everything for me.
My lack of training in sharing floated to the top of my list of skills that need refining when my first daughter was born.
From the second the nurse handed her to me, I was forced to share.
The nutrients my body made by breaking them down were now hers as she nursed. She shared the crooks of my arms, and empty spots on the bed.
At home she shared the space that once belonged only to me and my husband. Her baby stuff was everywhere. Burp clothes on the couch, a bassinet in our already-crowded bedroom, a boppie on the living room floor, spoons and bottles in the once organized pantry.
My space – my house – was being intruded upon, slowly at first then quickly as she grew from an infant to a toddler.
And she consistently asks for more.
“Can I have a bite of your cookie/Luna Bar/banana/ apple?”
“Can I lay with you/lay on you/all my stuffed animals on you?”
Suddenly our 2-year-old, this petite ball of energy, has taken over everything. Princess dolls sit on kitchen chairs, tiny sweaters take up space in the hall closet where infant toys sit in a container, a stroller takes up the trunk of my car and baby wipes reside in my purse.
The deeper I get into parenthood the more I’m learning the importance of sharing with my daughter – now daughters – and why it’s difficult to achieve. I thought sharing would be easier once my second daughter was born. I was wrong.
Now two people are constantly asking, imploring, pleading for my attention, my time and my space.
Sharing my space – rearranging items and replacing my office with a playroom for instance – is difficult, especially on days when all I want to do after a long day of work is lay on the couch and zone out.
Parents don’t have that option.
It’s not just sharing my space or letting go of my neat-freak tendencies that has thrown me. It’s the learning to share aspects of myself with my daughters that often leaves me speechless.
“Who’s that?”she asks crawling onto my lap as I sit on the floor feeding the baby, her chubby finger points to a woman I haven’t seen in years: my grandma.
“That’s your great grandma,” I tell her, “and that’s your nana and me.”
“But I’ve never known her before,” she tells me.
How do I explain death to my daughter? How do I share with her the memories of my grandma, a woman who my mom and I lived with until I was in elementary school? How do I make the scents of my grandma (tangerines and Este lauder perfume), the sound of her voice ( peppered with a Spanish accent), the melody of her laugh come alive again?
How do I share with her how difficult it was for the family to recover when my grandmother passed? How do I share with my daughters’ only bits and pieces of a person without telling her the whole story? The one that doesn’t have a happy ending?
“She’s not here anymore,” I tell her, not sure what else to say.
“Oh,” she responds before asking if she can ride her bike.
Saved by a toddler’s lack of concentration. This time.
There will be more questions like this one. Some day she will ask where my dad is and I’ll need to answer her. Perhaps she will want to know about past boyfriends and relationships. Do I tell her about my failed relationships? About the on-and-off connections, the heart breaks and missed opportunities?
What happens when she confides in me fears of leaving for college, asking me what I did when at that crossroad of life after high school? Do I share with her my story of how I stood at a local school due to fear of leaving behind everything and everyone? Or do I sit quietly or provide a generic answer – “you need to do what’s best for you.”
How do I share with my daughter, my stories, my truth, without creating a “well mom did it so that means I can do it?” situation? Or worse, what if I disappoint her by letting her privy to the ins and outs of my past?
How do I share the hard lessons learned; the realities of life?
As parents we are asked to share so much: our opinions, our thoughts, our food, space and resources.
More importantly, we are asked to share our stories; our memories.
“Your great grandma would have loved you,” I tell her shifting the infant onto my hip and taking her hand in mind as we walk to her bike in the backyard.
Perhaps the answer to how much or how little to share will come to me one day, but until then, I’ll continue to muddle through, providing my daughters snippets of my life, sharing with them the best memories, saving the others for another time.
“Let me tell you a little about her.”