On the way we passed our neighbor's house. Two kids wearing back packs were just then walking out their front door. I smiled and waved at them. They both smiled and waved back.
"Why do you always smile when you see a kid, Mommy?" Katie asked.
"Do I? I dunno. I just like kids." I squeezed Katie's hand.
"You always smile at every kid we see," Katie continued.
"Huh. Yeah, kids are awesome. I usually like kids more than I like grownups," I confided.
"Me too! Grownups are always so work-work-work. Kids are more like, play-play-play!" Katie said.
"Not all grownups are work-work-work," I argued. "I don't think I'm like that."
"Yes you are!" Katie said, like duh, Mom.
"What? No I'm not. I'm tons of fun!" I knew I sounded defensive.
"You work all the time, Mommy!" Katie countered.
"I do not. I only work twenty-four hours a week at the library," I said.
"And you write. You write all the time, Mom. I get Saturday and Sunday off school so I only have to work five days a week, but you write all the time so you work seven days a week!"
I didn't know what to say. She's right. I felt a combination of pride and guilt. My kiddo thinks my self-indulgent blogging is actual work! I'm so proud! My kiddo thinks I work all the time. She probably thinks I don't spend enough time with her. I feel guilty.
"Would you like me to take a day off of writing so I can play with you mor--"
"Yes!" She interrupted before I completed my thought-out-loud.
It will be hard to take a day off, but she's right, I should. I'm quite all-or-nothing with my writing. If I don't keep up the momentum of daily writing I easily get side-tracked and lose interest in my writing project. But my kid's only gonna be a kid for a short while. I have my whole life to write. I don't want our relationship to turn into a Harry Chapin song.
As we walked further Katie went on to tell me that she she doesn't want to be a writer when she grows up.
"I wanna be a drawer," she explained.
"I used to love to draw my stories too, when I was your age," I said.
"You did?" she said. I was surprised at how surprised she sounded, but then I remembered she didn't know me as a kid. She only knows me now. She never knew the me who sat at the kitchen table for hours, drawing. She only knows the me who sits in front of the laptop for hours, writing.
"Yeah, before I learned how to write stories, I drew them, just like you do." I squeezed her hand and she squeezed mine back. "When I got older, like 12 or 13, I started writing my stories and then I quit drawing. I kinda wish now that I had continued writing and drawing so I'd be good at both things now, but I felt more drawn to writing," I laughed at my pun. Katie laughed too, though I doubt she got it. Just as yawns are contagious, so is laughter, especially in kids.
"When I grow up I'm going to be a writer and a drawer because lots of books have pictures and words in them. They're not all chapter books, you know," Katie announced.
"What happened to Katie's Fun Factory? And the other day you said you wanted to get a PhD in art class. And yesterday you said you wanted to be a librarian. You know, you don't have to make up your mind what you want to do when you grow up for a long time, Sweetie," I said.
"Yeah," she said, ignoring my advice. "I want to get a PhD in art class and in reading! And the thing about Katie's Fun Factory is that I can do whatever I want. People can come and eat dinner there and play games and sleep in the rooms and I can be in my office working on my work, like my painting or my book or whatever I want."
"I wanna work at Katie's Fun Factory, too," I said.
"You CAN, Mama! It will be fun!"
By then we were in front of her school, so I leaned over and gave her a kiss. The other day, when we were in the waiting room of the doctor's office I leaned over to kiss her and she pulled away. For the first time ever. When the nurse brought Katie to me on her first day of life, Katie wrapped tightly inside a blanket and cuddled against the nurse's neck, she said, "You have the snuggliest baby I've ever seen!" And it's true. Katie has always been a snuggle bug.
I've read child development books so I knew her pulling-away-from-a-kiss phase was long overdue, so it didn't hurt my feelings too much when she did it in the waiting room. I figured she was nervous or something. Later in the day, when we were at home and she kissed me on the cheek before going into the back yard to play, I held her wrist and said, "Hey, Punk. How come you didn't feel like kissing earlier, at the doctor's?"
"I don't like kissing in public anymore," she announced and bounced out the back door.
So when Katie kissed me back, in front of her school, in front of her peers and all the other parents dropping their kids off, I relished the moment.