I was having the sweetest time putting Zi to sleep last night. She’s supposed to go to sleep in her crib, but when bedtime comes she likes to cry, “Lie down! Lie down!” and when you say, “okay, let’s put you in the crib”, she adds, “Bed! Bed! Mummy bed! Daddy bed!” like she thinks that occupying every part of the bed in all directions every night is her born right. Usually, she’s put in her crib anyway, but last night she was going to bed early and we had some time to hug up so I put her in our bed. Well, that was happiness self. There we were loving up, giving kisses, chatting about the beach and pancakes and how somebody was the world champion of staying awake. I was telling her that I loved her toes and her nose, and so on. She pipes up, “I love daddy!” Now, she says “I love you” if you ask, but this was the first time I heard her declare love like this, just so. And, of course, who would she have to declare it to? Her daddy. Steups.
I was one of those daughters so I know there’s a long road ahead of me now. My daddy could do no wrong and despite my mother being a super person on all fronts, I’m sure and I know she felt sure that I loved my daddy more. There’s lots of us just like that. It doesn’t matter if your mom is the rock of the family, the comforter, the muffin baker, the embroiderer and the one to spoil you. You are still going to love your daddy more. I have no idea why. If your dad disappoints you, that effusive adoration has cooled off by the time you are a late teenager and, even if you are still rebelliously staking out your own ground, you’ve come to appreciate how your mother has survived hell while trying to protect you from its fires. If your dad remains the guy who sets the standard you compare others to, as I know Stone will be for Ziya, well he’ll be the love of your life for life. Mummy will be everything, but you’ll be daddy’s girl.
And there it was: “I love daddy!” I then asked, “what about mummy?” “I love mummy!” she answered. But, it was too late, I had already seen the flashing sign, as impossible to miss or mistake as the screen on top of KFC on Independence Square, even if you are standing on Lady Chancellor Hill and the distance makes the whole thing seem far away. Steups. This wasn’t the first sign. When I show Ziya pictures of animal mummies and babies, she’ll sometimes insist that some of them are daddies. She knows the difference between the mummy and daddy lion, but that doesn’t matter, if she decides the mummy lion hugging up her cubs makes her feel warm and fuzzy about daddy, then she’ll point and say daddy. I’ll say, “no, that’s a mummy lion” and she’ll say, “daddy”.
Stone says she’s mummy-struck and that’s definitely true, although anyone who’s seen her insist on “boobs” night and day would probably say that she’s really breast-struck, but I know she’s the first to hear the car when I drive in from work so I’ll take the bligh. She’s equally daddy-struck though and its clear she doesn’t like to let Stone out of her sight. I guess what it is, is that I finally understand how this was such a big deal to my mother. Even if I rush home from work just to feed her and put her to bed, even if I haven’t slept in 20 months because she’s lying across my chest and attached to me while I have these hallucinatory dreams from oxygen deprivation in between the moments when she wakes up to cry and collapse on me again, even if I put all holds on life to prioritize her in my free time and take her to the beach, bush, river or for ice cream, even I spend weeks reading children’s book reviews on amazon just so I could hand pick her vast book collection to include science, space, art, dinosaurs, stories from around the world, and stories with strong and non-white girl characters. Even if, even if…it doesn’t matter. I know it already. She’s going to be Stone’s own daddy’s girl. She’ll be a pebble. She’ll love me, but idolize him.
I’m not bitter about it or anything. I’m blessed she’ll have a daddy worthy of such love. I know these things are personal and shaped by the individuals involved. I also know they are systemic. We take women and what they do for granted, we are harder on them for things we excuse men for, we make women work harder for praise and love, and set the standard for them in the care economy higher, we participate in the invisibility of their work and sometimes their feelings, we expect them to be there no matter what, for more hours on more days. So, perhaps we give less or we love mothers differently even if that love is fierce.
Maybe the future will unfold differently, but I’ve been that little girl and now I’m that mom. What makes me stop and write are moments like these when I see myself in both my daughter and my mother, and it’s still a place full of such new realisations to be.