“Mama, do you want to do an experiment?”
I look over at my daughter, her beloved tablet abandoned on the couch. There was a time not too long ago when a simple request like this would have made me cringe. I’m no Bill Nye. Not by a long shot.
But my six year old is different. She’s a curious little creature who watches hour-long nature documentaries and loves to study the solar system. “StoryBots” and “Wild Kratts” are her favourite TV shows.
She gets it from her dad.
“Why don’t we do an experiment to see which objects we have around the house sink or float?”
And so we pretend my daughter has her very own YouTube channel. She wants to film it, to make it more “real,” so I get out my phone and hit record.
She’s naturally quite shy, so it makes me proud as she introduces herself and confidently throws various household items into a big bowl of water on our kitchen table. Some splashes are bigger than others, but I don’t worry about the water dripping onto the floor. I just want to be here, in the moment, having fun with her.
I look at the different things we’ve included in our experiment, a hairbrush, a fork, a Lego boat, and an L.O.L doll dress—and I realize how much I’ve enjoyed the entire process. At the end of the video, she asks her “fans” to subscribe to her channel and to leave a comment below.
It’s been such a good day, but I feel a pang when I remember that she’ll be going back to school in a few weeks. Soon I won’t be conducting any more science classes, and that’s not something I thought I’d ever miss.
My husband and I have worked remotely during the pandemic, and as an only child, my daughter has often had to entertain herself. This translated into outrageous amounts of screen time. Out of her routine, she became unmotivated and didn’t want to participate in online learning. As her mother, I couldn’t summon the energy to argue with her.
I have mixed feelings about sending my little girl going back to school. I used to dream of the magical day she would enter her second grade classroom. We could take a break from each other, and then be reunited at three o’clock, sharing interesting stories from our days.
Five months into this new reality, however, I’ve become more comfortable with having my daughter at home most of the time. The juggling act of work, parenting and self-care is still difficult, but it’s not as overwhelming as it once was. Getting to this point has not been easy, but I definitely feel better about how we’re coping.
Last week I did something I thought I’d never do: I threw our cats a birthday party. As I mulled the idea over, I wondered if it was ridiculous. They’re just cats, I told myself. They wouldn’t even be able to blow out their own candles!
It didn’t matter. I realized that going with the flow and being a more in-the-moment mom meant I should feel free to indulge my silly side—especially if it made my daughter happy at the same time.
She loved the idea, and so I went to the party supply store and bought decorations and two huge cat balloons. During the festivities, my sister pulled me aside at one point and said, “What a thoughtful, loving and fun mother you are, that you would do anything to make magic happen for your daughter.”
It made me tear up, but it also made me reflect. Having been sidelined by chronic pain and mental health issues over the past few years, it felt like I was finally catching up. I never expected a global pandemic to present me with such an unexpected gift.
Like every other parent on the planet, I don’t know what the coming school year holds. I worry about my daughter’s health and her transition back into a world that will look and feel totally different. Will she be happy to be back with her friends? Comfortable and confident in her old surroundings? Or will she miss being home, spending time with her parents?
As a mom, I don’t have the answers to these questions. All I have is now. Less than a month to further strengthen our mother-daughter bond. But I’m proud of the way we’ve become closer over the past couple of months, the motherhood lessons I’ve learned - and the unrealistic expectations I’ve let go of. I’ve also come to appreciate the times alone with my daughter, when it’s just the two of us connecting and having fun, despite the COVID chaos still lingering in the background.
Today we’re making chocolate chip cookies out of different shapes. I want to do something creative to lift our spirits as summer winds down, even though I’m so out of my element in any type of cooking environment that it's painful to watch. Wearing an apron feels wrong when my baking history basically consists of eating raw cookie dough.
I look at my little girl and preface the whole experience with, "You know, even if they don't turn out perfect or how we wanted them..."
She nods and happily goes along like she knows exactly what she’s doing. I copy her.
When I peer into the oven to check on the cookies, I watch in horror as the gingerbread men grow bigger and bust out of their molds. I decide to salvage this sweet mess by breaking them up into a bunch of mini crunchy cookies and heaping a generous serving of icing over them.
The combo tastes delicious. My daughter dives right in and smiles at me with chocolate-covered teeth. Before COVID, I would’ve cried in the corner and proclaimed myself a failure as a mother. This time I grab a spoon, shovel all that goodness into my mouth, and throw my apron in the trash.
I’ve got this.