Katie showing Sparky the movie"Frankenweenie" for the first time. I think he liked it, but actors always say it's hard to watch yourself on screen. Thanks to my friend Brent for buying Katie the Sparky stuffed dog for her birthday!
While helping her get packed for a sleepover at a friend's house, I noticed Katie's sleeping bag had a tear in it.
"Hey, Sweetie, your sleeping back is torn a little here and some stuffing is coming out of it. Is that going to embarrass you in front of your friends at the sleepover and you want us to stitch it up, or is it OK the way it is?" I asked, holding it up for her to see the approximately seven inch rip in her hand-me-down from cousins' Princess sleeping bag.
"It's OK the way it is," she said, pushing her bangs off to the side of her face. They fell back into her eyes immediately but she refuses to wear them any other way most days.
In this way, Katie reminds me of myself when I was her age. She just doesn't care about nice and neat. I remember getting minus signs inside the box next to the words "keeps neat and clean" and "neat with all work" on my elementary school report cards. I remember an older neighbor kid once asking me if I even had any clothes. When I asked her what she meant, she said, "You just run around in your swim suit all summer long." I didn't get it. So what?
Katie's perfectly fine running around all day in the same clothes she wore the day before, the same clothes she slept in, not even bothering to brush sand from them when she comes inside from the sandbox. She slops food all over her face like Leo the Late Bloomer, she reacts to the thought of blowing her nose like a toddler running from a parent holding out one of those things that looks like it's going to suck out your brain. It takes more nagging than I usually have patience for to get her to clean her bedroom. She just doesn't get it when I tell her for the four-hundred-thousandth time to GET HER BANGS OUT OF HER EYES.
But I understand her. I didn't care about how I looked or how my bedroom looked or how my school work looked either. I didn't care that most of my clothes were hand-me-downs or that I often didn't bother finding two socks that matched. I wanted to play. I wanted to think about things. I wanted to figure things out. I wanted to get to know my friends. I wanted to run, and sit and look up at the sky. I didn't have time to bother with grooming or civility.
That all changed when I went through a pink phase for about five months in late- sixth grade when my mom gave me this cool marble looking pink plastic bracelet, and I just happened to notice I also had a pink jumper, a pink shirt, and pink tennis shoes, all stuff just randomly given to me and not picked out to wear as an outfit. When I tried it on one day and looked in the mirror I felt fantastic. Now, if I saw a girl dressed all matchy-matchy like this today, I'd smile at her and giggle inside at the recognition of someone who was not born with an innate fashion sense but had recently begun diving into it head-on anyway. But at the time I thought I looked fiiiiiiiiiiine.
I was daydreaming, thinking about all of this, when something Will said broke my concentration.
"I'll stitch it up. I can do it. Don't worry about it."
Did he think my standing there staring off into space meant I was worrying about it? "Aww, that's sweet! You don't have to do that!" I said, meaning, "I'm not worried if Katie's not worried what her friends think of her tattered sleeping bag." But I didn't say that because for some reason when you get married sometimes you forget that your spouse cannot read your mind. It's a bad habit I haven't learned to break yet.
But Will said, "No, I want to. I'll stitch it up. I can do it. It'll be easy."
"Oh. OK, if you want to. That's so sweet." I turned to look at Katie and said, "Isn't your daddy so nice to stitch up your sleeping bag for you?"
Katie nodded and smiled like yeah yeah, tell me something I don't already know, such a lucky child to take for granted how doting her daddy is. I'll forgive her though. She's got such a good heart. Here's what she said, instead of "Thank you, Daddy":
"You know what? I think Sparky has ampliffy for my sleeping bag." She stood there, looking at both of us, cradling her Sparky stuffed dog in her arm.
"Ampliffy?" I asked. "What do you mean?"
"I think Sparky knows how it feels to be stitched up," she explained.
"Oh, Sparky has empathy for the sleeping bag?" I asked.
"Yes, empathy," Katie said like that's what I said, Mom.
I looked over and smiled at Will, who was smiling, too. Our daughter's big vocabulary. Our daughter's big thoughts. Our daughter's big heart. We stood there and smiled at each other, proud of this girl of ours.