I've been neglecting my blog, partly because I've been busy with some other new projects, like working on my photography, and partly just because my life has been really complicated lately. I have a lot of things to write about, and then again some things I haven't wanted or been able to put into words in a way that I can share here. I've had such a lack of clarity lately that it's been difficult to know where to begin.
Yesterday when I went to pick Dora up from school, I was really looking forward to seeing her. It's been a long week, full of evening meetings and other activities making our time together limited. I was excited to start our weekend together. When I arrived, though, the teacher told me she had just bitten one of her friends, for "being in her way". I spoke to Dora disapprovingly, reminding her of the consequence the last time she bit one of her friends - no TV all evening.
We had to make a quick stop at the grocery store for milk and orange juice. I toyed with getting some ice cream and in the split second I stood still to look at the choices, Dora decided to take off. She's run from me in the store before, but this time she completely disappeared. The store was packed with people starting their weekends. I turned round and round in the produce section, paced back and forth at the ends of the aisles, and she was nowhere to be seen. I thought, is it time to start screaming her name? Then I saw the flash of her plaid shorts by the milk and cheese, following a girl of about 7 who was trying to help her. I grabbed her arm hard, admonishing her never to do that again. She started crying loudly, saying she didn't want a time out. It felt like that scene in a movie when the film slows down a little, every head slowly turning to look at us while I dragged Dora to the checkout line. One man glared at me as if to say, "if you had held onto her properly you could've avoided this".
I sat in my car feeling like the world's worst parent, embarrassed by my anger and frustrated with my inability to coax good behavior out of my daughter at times when I need it most - in public, or when she could be in danger. I started to cry, thinking of my friends and their lives that seem less complicated, feeling pangs of jealousy of those who seem to (or do) have what I want. I thought, "how can I want two children when I can barely handle one?"
The truth is, we do want another child, but for some reason, it hasn't happened for us yet. While second babies seem to appear every day amongst my circle of friends, we remain three. I'm sure there are many reasons, but sitting in my car in the afternoon sun, Dora whining for her blanket, I thought perhaps God hasn't given me a second baby because I'm not yet doing a good enough job with the first one.
My logical mind knows this is not the case, that there is not some cosmic scorekeeper above, deciding who's had enough tragedy or hardship, evenly distributing the natural disasters by population and demographics, checking off the boxes next to discomfort and disappointment in each person's life. I know you don't "get" a second baby by being "good enough" to your first one. But the voice of one's logical mind is not always the loudest.
This afternoon, Brian had a gig and Dora and I had a girl's afternoon. We went to the trail around Beaver Lake in Asheville, me snapping pictures and Dora riding her little Skuut bike. We had to stop and pet every dog. I pointed out every turtle. Dora said hi to every person we passed, and she chatted with others. A group of teenage girls were lounging in the grass, and she said to me, "I want to go talk to those ladies." We talked to an older couple walking a dog, and another couple who wanted to know all about Dora's bike. Dora ran up to another woman walking by herself. We spoke for a few minutes and as we were about to part ways, Dora grabbed the woman's leg to hug her. The woman said, "where does she get all that love?"
We were near the end of our walk then, so I carried a tired Dora, her bike, her helmet, and my camera back to the car. I thought about what the woman said, thought about curious, open, outgoing Dora, who walks up to old African American ladies at the drugstore and grabs their hands, who says hi to every passing person, even the grumpy ones, who asks to pet every dog. I may not be doing everything right with Dora, my life may be so hectic right now that I can't give her the attention she deserves. But one thing is for sure - she knows she is loved, and she knows that showing that love to other people is part of her job in this world. That loving spirit that shines from within Dora, and the knowledge that I played at least some part in creating it, is more important than nearly anything else I can think of. Perhaps what I need to do is realize that, for now at least, knowing that is clarity enough.