She bound into the living room sporting a mischievous smile; one brow arched up, the other curved down towards her cheek pressing her eye into a squint, I knew this look. The last time I saw it I had to pry a plastic cat out from under her tongue.

“Open your mouth,” I said, glancing up from the computer. I held out my hand. She protested for a brief moment, wiggling her backside like a duck after a morning swim.

“Open it,” I persisted.

She brought her nose to mine and dropped her jaw. I got a sudden whiff of latex. “Balloon.” I said. “Give me the balloon”

 

She sighed in disappointment and released the choking hazard, “But, Curious George eats balloons,” she moaned in protest. I slid back on the couch so she could take in my full frame- arms crossed, shoulders pulled back. I wanted her to see that I was serious. “But Curious George can not choke like you can. Curious George cannot accidentally block his airways and end up in the emergency room. Curious George is not real.”

 

My daughter reared back. Her eyes grew narrow and she scanned my face as if counting and re-counting each freckle and line. After several silent seconds she whispered, “Mommy are you real?”

 

Now my jaw dropped. “I’m real. Of course I’m real.”

 

I took her arms and brought her to my side on the couch. “I am real, and daddy is real, and you are real, and all the people you love are real. We’re all real.”

 

 

“Ok” she said flashing me a side-glance and sliding off the cushion. “Let’s dance”

 

I turned on They Might Be Giants and we jumped to a song about the elements. The moment quickly fell into the background and her brief existential crisis gave way to a game of chase and a grilled cheese sandwich.

 

But a few days later I founder her lying in bed staring up at the ceiling. “Sage” I said, “Is something the matter?”

“I’m worried,” she explained rocking her head against her pillow.

“What are you worried about?” I probed.

“Well…I can’t see my eyes. I look and I look and I can’t see my eyes.”

“No one can see their own eyes.” I explained.

“But I can see your eyes. Where are mine?” she persisted.

“That’s just it.” I said, “We can all see each others eyes. But we can’t see our own. Not unless we look in the mirror.”

 

“Mommy.” She stated as if she was about to inform me of something I did not know. “If you could turn my head all the way around I could see them. If you could take my head off and put it on in the back, I think I could see my eyes.”

 

“But I can’t… your head is attached. I can’t take it off, not ever.”

 

She pressed her hands against her forehead and pushed with all her might. She began to cry, “Why can’t I take my head off….why?”

 

I rocked her. I explained that it would hurt too much, that we all need our heads to breathe, and eat, and live. Eventually she calmed down and we read a story. After ten minutes her focus was back on puppets and plastic animals and blocks. Another existential crisis had passed.

 

But then four days later we were at the pool. We’d just gotten dressed after a swim and were watching the grownups paddle up and down the lane lines. Sage followed their movements with great interest. “Wow,” she remarked. Then she looked down at her own frame. “Mommy, if I pull off my fingernail will all the beads come out of my body?”

 

I tried to respond, like I had to all her other deep questions, but somehow this one launched me into a memory from my own childhood. I was sitting between my parents on the couch when all of a sudden it occurred to me that maybe they were robots, maybe they weren’t made of the same stuff that I was. Maybe they were made of metal, or clay, or beads…maybe I was the only one in the whole universe who had feelings and thoughts, maybe I was the only real human on earth.

 

I had to find out. It couldn’t wait. I kicked my mom in the leg.

“Ouch Bec.”

I pressed my elbow into my dad’s side.

“Sweetie, that hurts.”

 

I had my confirmation. They were humans just like me. They felt things like I did. I was not alone.

 

But somehow, in that moment, I felt lonelier than ever.  If they were real that meant they had thoughts. Thoughts I would never know. And if my parents had thoughts, that probably meant that everyone else had thoughts too – my teachers, the mailman, the woman in the checkout lane at the grocery store…and they were walking around thinking their thoughts…all the time.

 

And I would never know what they were thinking. Not really anyway. And they would never really know my thoughts either.

 

At the time, that realization was absolutely devastating.

 

When I shook off the memory and returned to the present moment my daughter had moved on from her worries about the human body. She had spotted some friends and was eagerly trying to wiggle free from my arms. I let her go and marked each prancing step as she disappeared down the hall. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by that same sadness I had had as a child.

 

Lately my daughter was having so many revelations, she was making so many mind-blowing discoveries. She was asking deep questions.   She was hungry for answers. And though she was sharing so much of her inner monologue with me I’d never know it all. I’d never get to hear her thoughts like she does. I’d never be able to climb inside her head.

 

That space was hers alone.

 

As she played with her friends a few feet away from where I stood I felt like I was watching her from atop a mountain or across an ocean.  She danced around a bench, she chased her buddies, she laughed. Then all at once she paused and looked up, her eyes went wide, one corner of her mouth lifted ever so slightly.  I think she may have noticed something small and interesting on the ceiling.

 

I’ll never know.

 

It was stunning and heartbreaking all at once.

 

I had always wondered why so many babies were born in the summer. Out of all the months in a year, who would look at a calendar and say, “Hey, you know when I want to be nine months pregnant? August! I can’t wait to tote around forty extra pounds in ninety-degree weather.  And just think how stellar my swollen ankles will look in shorts!”

 

It’s pure insanity.

 

But two weeks ago, during a local costume parade, I connected the dots. It’s Halloween.  Now I know what you’re thinking…”Oh it’s all the girls running around dressed as slutty nurses, and slutty cats… slutty snowmen. Slutty cereal boxes.” But that’s not it. That’s not the reason why so many people procreate at the end of October thus forcing them to give birth during the sweltering heat of the summer months.

 

It’s the children.

 

It’s the eager and innocent faces peeking out from over-stuffed cow suits. It’s the toddlers tripping on their monkey tails. It’s the infants attempting to grip bottles with their synthetic lobster claws. It’s unbearably cute.

 

I am willing to put money on the fact that when it comes to Halloween, my kid alone could have sent a lifetime baby hater running to the sperm bank.

 

For starters, she was dressed as a purple and brown kangaroo-dog. I don’t know if you’ve been to the zoo or the Outback lately, but that’s not a real thing. It’s an animal crafted by the sheer brilliance and creativity of a two-and-a-half year old who wants to be a dog but also wants to have a pouch that will require her parents to purchase her a little stuffed animal to put in the pouch- is that cute or what?

 

On top of that, she requested that we host a Halloween party (despite having no idea what Halloween was) and spent the morning making decorations for the party- pumpkins with upside down mouths and ghosts with six eyes- astonishingly cute.

 

Then when her friends arrived she led them onto the bed and orchestrated the most epic bed jumping rumpus ever. Kids jumping on the bed are cute even when they’re not wearing costumes, but just imagine a little astronaut, a fairy, a pirate, a pumpkin, and a kangaroo-dog all giggling and bouncing about. I almost puked it was so cute.

 

But none of that compared the cuteness of the actual trick-or-treating. That shit was so cute I’m pretty sure that I died at least three times of heartbreak all in the course of walking one neighborhood block. When the costumed crew headed out none of them knew what to expect. At two-and-a-half, most of the girls had worn costumes before but had never been exposed to the costume/candy equation.   When we came to the first door my daughter wrapped herself around my ankle and looked up at me like, “Umm…Mom? I don’t think we know the people who live here. I may be dressed as a kangaroo-dog but that doesn’t mean I have special powers. If some dude comes to the door with an axe we’re toast, despite my costume.”

But when a friendly face emerged holding a basket of candy and inviting her to “take a handful” her eyes grew as wide as melons and her mouth fell agape.” Is this really happening?” I could hear her thinking. “Has this always been the case? All these past two years could I have been knocking on doors and getting candy? Why did no one tell me!” By the second door Sage and her crew of toddling buddies were like professional door-to-door salesmen. “Trick-or-treat,” they cooed in chorus smiling like cherubs and posing so their costumes looked “just so”. These kids were so cute people were dumping fistfuls of candy into their little plastic pumpkins and then running into their homes to find other treats to give. “Here have my cat too, oh here’s a fifty, here’s the keys to my car, the deed to my house…take it all.”

 

Everyone was left babbling and helpless. The costumes, the excited eyes, the giddy laughs over miniature snickers, the wild shrieking of a child who’s out with her friends past dark for the first time ever; it’s all just amazing.

 

It makes you feel like everything is new and alive, like it’s all just beginning. It makes you remember magic. It makes you think of your own childhood and how it felt to play outside all day and then return home to a warm bath and a perfect chapter book. It makes you think of campfires and flying a kite and road trips. It makes you think of all the fun things that lie ahead, of all the things you want to do and be. It makes you certain that everything will work out and that children are the answer to everything- ending war, eradicating poverty…everything.

 

It makes you want to get knocked up even if it means…

 

babies in August.

 

According to my two-and-a-half-year-old, “big girls” rule the world. They are like little wizards disguised in leggings and Gap t-shirts. They can operate scissors, ride bikes with only two wheels, consume hard candy…their magical powers are truly undeniable and Sage is trying desperately to get on their team. Each time she completes a task that she identifies as “big girl” she practically explodes with glee. When she successfully used a glue stick we celebrated for three days straight, when she drank from a glass cup with no protective spill shield we called the local news station, and when she peed in the toilet, the real toilet, we danced until our shoes burned off our feet.

The other night at dinner, when she cast aside her blunted plastic fork and requested an adult sized utensil, I knew she was going for the gold. We watched with awe as she raised it above her head and then deftly speared a small noodle.  She was utterly shocked by the accomplishment, “Mommy…Daddy” she whispered. “I…I…I’m a big girl…I can fork! I CAN FORK!!!”

“Yes, yes!” We cheered. “You can fork. You can. You’re a forkin’ big girl!!”

But somewhere during all the excitement she suddenly got pensive. “I’m growing up,” she said in this tone that made me think she was really mystified by the whole process. And then she asked, “Why? Why am I growing?”

My husband and I exchanged a look and I knew we were both debating a response. Would we give a whole metaphor about seedlings growing into flowers? Would we make up a song to reveal the answer? Would we draw a diagram?

We opted for the boomerang approach and tossed the question back at her.

“Why do you think you’re growing?” we asked.

She paused for a good three seconds. She looked at her fork, she looked at us. She looked back at her fork, she looked back at us.

“I’m growing because you love me,” she said.

Of course, my husband and I cried.

Later that night, long after my daughter had gone to bed, I thought about her answer and wondered, “How much of her “growing up” really has to do with us?” Sure there are the obvious things like the fact that we’re feeding her and hydrating her and that obviously contributes to her literal growth. And we’re doing our absolute best to make her feel secure, and confident, and brave and I’d like to think that’s helping her inch upwards in the emotional arena. And yes we might be teaching her a thing or two: letters, numbers, colors, mostly by accident, so there are some cognitive leaps happening as a result of our presence.  But what I’m discovering more and more each moment that I know her is that she is in the driver’s seat, headed ninety miles per hour towards the person she will become. Her sense of humor is her own. Her stories and songs are made up on the fly. Her walk is determined yet dainty; it has a rhythm I cannot recognize in my own footsteps or my husband’s.   The world that she sees is painted in colors I can’t even imagine. She has a wisdom that is far beyond anything I can conjure in myself. Her creativity is mind-blowing and raw. Everything she touches turns into a unique invention.

Someday, when she really is “a big girl”, I’ll remind her of that one time she told us that she was “growing up because we loved her” and she’ll roll her eyes and make a gagging sound. “You guys’ had nothing to do with it,” she’ll groan.  And I’ll push back because, how could I not? I’ll list the numerous ways that we made her awesome and therefore request a small percentage of everything she ever earns along with a medium sized retirement house on the beach.  But really, secretly I’ll be thinking, “You’re absolutely right. You were your own person from the very start.”

“Let’s hit the road,” I call out as I head toward the door dragging the hiking backpack, the stroller, and my daughter’s favorite stuffed bear. We are taking a walk. It’s going to be our moment of quiet, our time of slow observance. We will stroll the countryside, moo at the cows, and watch the sun dip low in the sky.  As we walk, we will talk about the wind and about flying. We will listen for small sounds, sounds that no one else would hear. We will match fallen leaves to their trees and make up stories for the crickets.

I have it all planned out.

I took this same walk yesterday without my daughter. The whole time I imagined her with me; the two of us out in nature, enjoying the scenery, taking it all in. I imagined her telling someone about the walk ten, maybe even twenty, years later. “My mother used to take me out in nature. That really is what gave me such an appreciation for life. There was this one walk we took…it was just so perfect, and somehow it made me realize that the world was full of wonder. And I carried that with me forever and ever and ever and that’s why I’m such a great person and am President of The United States.”

As we drive off in the car, towards our destination, I can almost hear music playing in the distance. It’s a quiet song, but very emotional, and truly inspired. I cannot wait to begin our journey.

“Okay, honey,” I say as I set the backpack on the ground, “hop in.” She takes one look and shakes her head.

“No mommy. I want to walk.”

“Sounds good,” I agree, not wanting to argue with her desire to frolic freely. I stuff the pack back into the trunk.

“Off we go!”

We take eight, maybe nine steps.

“I think I want the stroller,” my daughter squeaks.

I carry her back to the car, unload the stroller, and buckle her in.

“But Mommy. I need to do the buckles.” She corrects me.

I undo the buckles and wait as she spends the next five minutes securing herself in the stroller.

I begin to get frustrated. I take a deep breath and think of the walk. This really is going to be great.

When she’s finally satisfied with the straps we begin to stroll down the road. I don’t waste any time. I jump right in and start pointing out the beauty. I have this one short walk to introduce my daughter to all the wonders of the world and I’ve already lost at least twenty minutes to the backpack/stroller ordeal.

“Look! The sky!” I say as I wildly gesture up towards the heavens. “What if you could fly like a bird?”

“Oh, Oh,” she says pointing down to a rock that has been sprayed orange by a road crew.  “What if I could touch that orange rock?”

I take her out of the stroller. She touches the rock. I quickly put her back in the stroller. She notices a bottle cap cast to the side of the road. “But Mommy, there’s that!”

“But Sage there’s trees and flowers.”

“AND THAT” she insists, jumping out of the stroller and running to the cap like it’s precious and rare.

I can feel the walk of my dreams slipping away…

Suddenly I realize the magic word that will get us back on track.

“Cow” I shriek, like I’m alerting people to a burning building.

My plan works.

My daughter giggles in delight at the prospect of livestock. She runs back to the stroller and…

…spends five more minutes strapping herself in.

I take many deep breaths. “Isn’t this lovely,” I say.

When she’s finally secured we trot off to the cows. “This is where it will all turn around,” I think to myself. “She’ll watch them graze, notice the grass and the way that the wind bends all living things ever so slightly. It will be profound” But when we get to the pasture, there are no cows in sight. “NO COWS!” my daughter states as if in total shock and disbelief. I know her subtext is, “OH MOMMY, HOW YOU LIE!!”

I frantically begin making up a story about how the cows must be sleeping or having a meeting with Old McDonald, I’ve just got to turn this around.

But then out of nowhere Sage spots a stick that is just her size. The missing cows are forgotten. Our nature walk is back on!

“This will be my very best walking stick,” she says as she brandishes it about, nearly taking out my eye. “Oh and that one too… and one more…that one over there.”

I quickly gather her sticks and place them on her lap, now this is starting to become what I imagined. We are foraging. We are two explorers out on the road.

“Onwards!” I cry and attempt to move us forward, to the maple trees that are just around the corner, to the glistening spider webs and the rock pile where just yesterday I spotted a fox.

But her three sticks have gotten caught in the wheels and the stroller spins and catches and nearly tips over.

“No more walking sticks.” I say, now losing my temper.

“But they are my best,” she begins to cry.

And because I dreamed of walking silently by her side, down the dirt path, and through the meadows, I agree to hold the three walking sticks as I push the stroller.  I nest one under my chin and one under each armpit and trudge on.

Now I’m really starting to feel like a chump. I’m disappointed. I’m tired. I’m done walking!

I can no longer point out the setting sun or the sound of the crickets or the wind on the maple leaves. If I talk, the damn stick will fall from beneath my chin. “Fuck it,” I think to myself. “This walk sucks!”

But then out of nowhere Sage begins to shout, “Stop mommy. Stop. Look right there.”

And she points to something off to the side, just beyond my view.

I sigh.

I put down the sticks.

I unbuckle the straps.

I lift her out of the stroller.

I sigh again.

I follow her to a spot in the grass.

She kneels down.

I kneel beside her.

She extends one tiny finger and shows me a small speck of light that is shining on an even smaller flower. It is absolutely perfect.

We never do manage to spot the fox, or the cows, or achieve enough stillness to really feel the wind or the leaves beneath our feet. But I’m pretty sure I can hear that music playing in the distance as we walk back to the car.

If you were to watch me watch my daughter, I’m quite certain you’d assume I was stoned. She does something… anything…and I just stare like it’s the season finale of my favorite show. Then I explode with laughter, or cry with awe. And I say stuff like, “That’s so crazy, did you just see her work that fork? Oh my god that was amazing. Forks are amazing. It’s just insane that we have forks. Someone invented forks. Someone raised a child who grew up and invented a fork and then all the rest of us all learned to use those forks. How did we learn to use forks… that’s such a crazy accomplishment…come to think of it how did we learn to walk or turn on a light switch? I need to take a nap or eat a bag of chips…this is all just too much…”

The other day I watched Sage try to jump off a small boulder. All the other kids could do it and I knew she wanted to join in their fun. After several anxious laps around its perimeter she climbed atop and then gazed down like she was about to throw herself out of an airplane. She squinted her eyes, took a deep breath and then made this little hiccup motion that sent her shoulders into her ears but left her feet unmoved. When she opened her eyes she gave this incredulous look, “What? I’m still on this rock? How is that possible?”  As the other kids bounced off the cratered surface like it was a trampoline, my daughter remained fixed in her place, pumping her shoulders and wondering what exactly was causing the malfunction. She checked her shoes and touched the rock- why was it not working for her?  Then out of nowhere something seemed to click. She began to swing her arms like she was cross-country skiing. Next she started galloping her feet until at last she got enough momentum to propel herself forward.

When she landed she looked up at me like, “Holy shit did you see that?” And I nodded, mouth agape like I’d just watched a man land on the moon. And that is really how I felt.

It was riveting. I told everyone, “Hi, I know we haven’t talked in three years but my daughter just jumped off a rock and I wanted you to know how spectacular it was…hello? Are you still there…?”

Despite teaching for at least ten years, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could have prepared me for watching my daughter learn. It’s so humbling it makes me feel like I’m stripped down naked and standing atop Mt. Everest. Whether she’s figuring out how to unscrew a bottle cap, or scribble the letter S, or scream louder than the big girls on the playground it is all one amazing  process.

And perhaps I’m so acutely aware of her learning and the massive journey she takes as she discovers her world for the very first time because I’m in the process of figuring out my new world too.

How do I wash the dishes while cradling a kid?  How do meet my work deadlines while wearing a puppet on one hand? How do I get poop out of the pillowcase and untangle her hair and teach her how to be kind even when I’m feeling irritable and tired? How do encourage her to sing at the top of her lungs, and whisper at the library, and dance where ever she likes, and stay safe around cars, and swim, and sit through dinner, and listen till a story comes to an end, and watch carefully, and be bold, and pensive, and expressive, and open.

It’s all trial and error. Some days I feel like I’m standing on a rock, just stuck flailing my arms and wondering why I’m not moving forward. Then some days, it clicks and…

I jump.

In walks Nola. The diaper around her waist does not stop her from sporting an elegant swagger. She surveys the scene with a steady nod as if to take note of all the places she will venture over the course of the afternoon.

“Hey Nola,” I say.

“I got a sword,” she announces.

I look to her mother for confirmation, she shakes her head to validate the information, “She insisted on a sword.”

“Nola, why did you need a sword?”

“To get the flies,” she says with a half raised eyebrow and complete conviction.

That Nola is so cool. Anyone else would have gone with a fly swatter but this toddler plans to eliminate the bugs “gladiator style”.

At our picnic lunch Nola tells me when my daughter has buried her sandwich under the sand and lets me know that Sage is “a little bit thirsty”. She shares her yogurt snack without a word of protest and when my daughter trips on a tree root Nola pats her back and whispers that it will “be okay in just a minute.” Man, that Nola is mature. Later at the park Nola lets my daughter go first down the slide. When a boy who must be at least six, tries to cut in front of my kid Nola puts her hand firmly on his shoulder. “Hey big boy, it’s my friend Sage’s turn!”

Nola’s always got your back.

She’s the kind of friend you hope your kid will have. She’s kind and creative, smart and funny. Though she’s just a toddler I can imagine her being the girl that my daughter some day confides in.

And as I sit there watching them play it occurs to me that my daughter is that friend too. Though I’m only now beginning to see her interact with others I can tell that she’s going to be a gathering force. She rallies the troops. She conjures magic. “This is my dance,” she cries out as she teachers a crew of two-year-olds how to play air guitar. She sings her way through most days and shares stories like they are living things wriggling in her hands.

A few weeks ago we were at the beach and a gaggle of seven-year-olds were trading coloring books and whispering under a tree. My daughter inched towards them as if they had her on a leash and were slowly pulling her close. Before she knew it she was standing in the center of their circle and giving this look like, “Hey, how did I end up her?” I could see her searching for something to say, something to justify her sudden presence. “I have crayons,” she blurted and the girls giggled like, “what does that have to do with anything?”

I knew why Sage had chosen to say that. I wanted to defend her. I wanted to translate her words so these big girls would understand. “Hey you morons, you are holding coloring books. She wants to let you know that she can hang. She’s got tools to color with. You could use her goods. She wants to play.”

But I held my tongue.

Sage gave an awkward smile. I curled my toes and held my breath.

“Bye,” the girls said, shooing her away.

“Your loss!” I wanted to shout as the girls went back to their whispers and my daughter ran to my side.

“Hey,” I said as I swooped her up, “Someday you and Nola will share your coloring books with a little girl and she will be so excited.”

“Yeah” said Sage “And we will all color together.”

That Sage is so cool.

Bedtime is between my husband and daughter. They close the door and an entire world unfolds. They have their own mythology and their own music. Together they conjure a special cast of characters who appear only when the lights go out. The routine lasts for at least an hour. I hear them reading, I hear them laughing, I hear them playing guitar, I hear them whispering. Eventually everything goes quiet. I wait for a long while. If my husband does not emerge I know that he has fallen asleep on her floor. Despite suffering from insomnia, the sound of his daughter breathing softly by his side always knocks him out.

Their private language continues during the day. They look for the moon everywhere they go. They do pratfalls and comedy routines. When she’s having a meltdown he carries her off and they have a chat, he talks to her about her choices, he patiently redirects her energy, they make a plan. She emerges with a smile. He cooks dinner with her by his side. They construct dollhouses out of milk jugs; they build forts. They go to concerts and rock out. They make the same face when they are thinking really hard and when they are baffled.  They both laugh loudly. In the morning my daughter likes to hold his face in her hands. “Hi daddy,” she says, like she’s missed him terribly.

A few weeks ago this father-daughter duo headed off to the museum. They were going to enjoy a day experimenting with electricity and blowing bubbles. They were going to discover science. It was going to be great. But when my husband returned he seemed down. He reported that the day had been a lot of fun but then gave me a look that said, “I have a story to tell…later.” After the little one went to sleep he reported the following events:

Sage was playing with a string. I don’t know where she found it but it was tiny, nothing to think twice about. At one point she was sitting by herself a few feet away from me when this older woman came up and scolded me. “Did you know your daughter was playing with a string? I had to take it away from her. She needs someone to look after her. You need to look after children. They need to be watched. YOU need to watch her.”

I immediately felt rage on behalf of my husband. Sure, people have pulled me aside and informed me that my daughter’s shoes were on the wrong feet, but they were. And yes, on a few occasions, I’ve gotten scowls and comments when I let Sage run naked in the early fall or go without a hat in winter, but no one has ever pulled me aside and given me a rudimentary lesson in parenting: “Children need to be watched.”

I couldn’t help but think that this woman’s harsh response was due to the fact that Sage was with her DAD. According to the great mythology of parenting, she was accompanied by the inferior sex- the bumbling male who can’t change a diaper and would rather be watching football than chasing after his kid. And this mythological “dude” could not be farther from my husband.

I immediately began composing a letter to this woman who had such little faith in the Y chromosome.

Dear Mean Lady,

You have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m the one you should be yelling at. I’m probably the person who gave my kid the string in the first place. Did you know that I floss and then it over to her to chew on? I have pockets full of dirty little parenting secrets. Nearly every time she’s fallen out of the bed I was the one on duty. I let her eat chocolate. I accidentally taught her how to say “shit”.  One time I looked away while we were in a public restroom and found her licking the floor. I put her clothes on inside out all the time. When she was really little I occasionally used to bribe her with my boobies.

You should know that my husband and she once got trapped in an elevator for two hours. Do you know what he did the entire time they were in there? He recited her favorite bedtime stories. From memory. He stroked her hair. He whispered, “everything will be okay,” even as the fire department was prying the doors open with a crowbar and ax. Do you have any idea what I would have done in that situation? I would have screamed, I would have hyperventilated, I would have cried for my mommy, and then pissed myself. I would have puked. So have a little faith in daddies.  My husband and I parent fifty/fifty. We tag team the day and he can’t wait for his turn. He once changed a poopy diaper on a five-by-five bathroom floor. He can work a puppet in such a way that it truly becomes real. Spread the word. Tell all the doubters. I don’t know what you are used to but there is a brand of fathers that can rock a Baby Bjorn, swaddle a screaming infant and finger paint with the best of them. Tell your friends to pay attention. They will surely see dads at the park during the day. They will hear children being soothed by the male variety. They will smell a pot of stew being stirred by a hairy hand. They will be inspired.

As I signed my imaginary letter and came back to reality I noticed my husband was not in the room. After several minutes he returned to the couch. “Where did you go?” I asked.

“I went to Sage’s room,” he said, “didn’t you hear her crying?”