Rescue Mission

Papaya: “Gordo! Gordo! Gordo! Gordo!”

Sturdy toddler feet busily running around furniture, turning corners tightly and swiftly avoiding corner crashes.

Papaya: “Mama! Do you want to help me rescue Baby Jaguar?”
Me, sensing that I am about to be roped into tiresome play: “Sure, maybe in five minutes?”
Papaya: “Baby Jaguar needs to be rescued now!”
Me: “Well in that case, sure, I’ll help you rescue him.”
Papaya: “Hurry, Mama, we have to help him!”
Me: “I’m hurrying!”
Papaya: “Here, I can teach you. Watch! Gordo! Gordo! Gordo! You say G-O-R-D-O, Mom!”
Me, running in step: “Gordo! Gordo! Gordo! Gordo!”
Papaya: “Faster! Faster! Faster!”
Me, a little breathlessly: “By the way, Papaya, what does gordo mean?”
Papaya: “It means rescue a baby! Silly Mama!”
Duh. But of course it means that.
Papaya and Mama running around a table: “Gordo! Gordo! Gordo! Gordo!”

A week ago “gordo” wasn’t part of the play. A week ago the play was finding sleeping animals in the forest, and the dialogue between us went like this:
Papaya: “Mama, do you want to help me find the sleeping animals in the forest?”
Me: “Sure, I’ll help you find them.”
Papaya: “Good! Okay, Mama, we run around the table like this!”
Around the table we run and run in a never-ending circle…until…I stop to rest.
Papaya: “Mama, you want to help me find the sleeping animals in the forest?”
Me: “I just did, love.”
Papaya: “But we’re not done! The animals are not found!”
Me: “Okay, I’ll help you for five more minutes, but then I have some grownup work to do.”
Papaya: “Okay Mama! Let’s do it!”
Around the table we run and run, in search of sleeping animals in the forest. We take breaks, many breaks, because Papaya wants to take pictures of me finding the lost animals in the forest. (The day before she received a tiny toy camera at a nature center; it’s still a novelty item.) Papaya: “Smile, Mama! Smile!”

In defense of my unenthusiastic “Gordo!” shouting and telling Papaya that I have only five minutes to engage her in play, this exchange comes on the heels of two million requests to find the sleeping animals in the forest, one million requests to run around the dining room table with her, in order to find the sleeping animals, and two million requests to pose with a smile so that she can take a picture of me finding the sleeping animals in the forest. Wait. She just asked again. Make that two million and one requests.

So, here’s a thing about parenting: it’s repetitious. Often, and frequently. Whether breast or bottle feeding, diaper changing or underwear and clothes changing during potting training, you do the same thing over and over and over, and then over and over again, and again, and you try to do it enthusiastically more times than not, because being the earnest parent that you are, you get it that to your child the thing that’s being repeated over and over is novel, and her engagement with it is pure and essential.

Not that this truth means you always, or in some cases ever, love it, or the repetition of it.  Look at me, for example; my mouth is upturned in a smile but my eyes reflect weariness…as I stomp around the dining room table calling out “Gordo! Gordo! Gordo! Gordo!”

There’s a baby jaguar to rescue. This is important work!

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