My daughter calls me using the magic of the future. I can see her face and the faces of my grandchildren on my cellphone. I grab a fourteen-inch, posable, superhero action figure and a small, purple, plastic vegetable with a face and pretend they are flying with each other. I make the cape on the masked man in black wave like he’s going extra fast. “Whooooosh,” I say. My grandson smiles and laughs and my day is made.
I’m incredibly lucky because I get to see their faces almost every day. Sometimes my granddaughter insists on holding the phone, which really means eating my face, and she hangs up several times before we’re done, ending with her haltingly waving to me bye-bye. I watch them coo and cry, and then start to scoot, then crawl, and then one day they say, “DeeDee! Guys!” and I go grab some toys so we can play together even though I’m two hundred miles away.
I get to see my daughter on the good days and the bad. I see her cycle through all her emotions while trying to raise small children and the way she feels battered after a particularly tough day of two small crying people who are demanding more, but unable to tell her just what the “more” should consist of, while they teethe, smear applesauce on the mirror, and sometimes just suddenly stop everything, make eye contact, and let out a heart-stopping scream to get attention before smiling widely with a twinkle in their eye.
I hear her speaking calmly, soothingly, and trying not to overreact to the shrill sounds or the intentional head-bonks carried out by plastic swords. I see her navigating her way, looking for the constructive ways to mold their behavior, while trying to overlook what can safely be ignored so she isn’t a broken record of saying, “No,” all day.
Don’t get me wrong. Some days are brilliant. The children laugh and play and poop and nap on time. They attend a story-time at a local library or head to the gym. No one runs into a table leg or a wall, she has patience in spades, and the day ends with lullabies and kisses. The day ends with those things regardless, but some days they are infinitely easier.
I’m lucky I have these daily video chats with my daughter, because as she became an adult, we became friends, and she began to see me as something other than broken. She saw me as a…