Children. I don’t have my own for a reason. That reason: I irritate myself enough. This party doesn’t need a plus two.
In all seriousness, child-rearing was never of interest to me. I prefer (and enjoy) the titles of “Auntie Bek,” “Aunt Beki,” or “What’s your name?” The nieces, nephews, and I hang; we do kid stuff; I go home.
When I lived in Sweden four years ago, Anna’s son, O, was eight. Like his mom, he’s super chill and a sweetheart; we got along well for two people who don’t speak the same language. A game of Uno after dinner, jousting with plastic swords and shields in the living room…we had the routine covered. My social life paled in comparison to that of O’s, so, often, all I saw was his back walking out the door to play with friends or attend yet another birthday party.
In full transparency, I was slightly trepidatious about living with a child again when I moved in with Noey and Q. It had been a while since Noey and I spent time together, and our relationship was built around activities that weren’t kid friendly. I hadn’t visited much when Q was a baby, so fear of the unknown set in as I approached the house on Day One, belongings in tow.
Q, four-years-old at the time, greeted me fearlessly. A mini Noelle, she cared less about what’s significant to a weathered adult, like stress and unfamiliar territory. She was just excited to see me. In that moment, I knew with certainty that this child would have an impact on me.
She has an obsession with the original Mary Poppins; she plays Noey’s childhood vinyl soundtrack ad nauseum. She head-bangs to Rage Against the Machine and dances like a gazelle to Phish. She announces herself when she walks in a room; rates the meals Noey prepares unforgivingly (facial expressions included); thinks her glasses are bullshit; and is more decisive than most adults I know. Q’s crooked grin and belly laugh are her signatures; you get one or both from her, you know you’ve done something right. It’s for all of these reasons, and many more, that we call her “hambone.”
She’s an old soul, and has faced more challenges than most for a kid her age (she’s now six). As a child with Down syndrome, there are realities that are managed daily, but Q, Noey, and Q’s father navigate that territory with expertise. It’s remarkable.
It’s the purity of Q’s heart that’s impacted me most. Although her nickname is “boss,” her innocence prioritizes what it means to be human and kind, a lesson I’ve needed for years. She’s not a shrinking violet but she loves deeply, and that’s why I respect her.
In all honesty, looking at Q is like looking in a mirror of my childhood in some ways. It’s not just that we’re both only children whose parents are divorced, or that we both love our mothers fiercely. It’s not even that we share an impeccable taste in music and love to be sarcastic. It’s that there’s an incorruptibility she possesses that I once had, and I wish to God I could get back.
More to come.