I wrote about our trip to Mont Tremblant last week, but because the trip left such an impression, I wanted to write a little bit more. Not about what we did, but more about the value of having a one-on-one trip together or just setting aside some one-on-one time, particularly at Mazzy’s age.
On the trip, Mazzy loved being able to do all the big kid stuff without her little sister holding her back. She loved not having to compromise on what we did next, when or where we ate, what we watched, what we talked about at dinner, which bed she slept in, and most of all, who got my attention.
As for me, I was able to enjoy my daughter fully, for who she really is, absent of sibling rivalries and without constantly mitigating petty fights. I loved being able to fully focus on my first child again, for five days straight, without worrying about playing favorites or feeling guilty or making her little sister jealous. It made me realize that Mazzy really hasn’t had my undivided attention since Harlow was born.
It was invaluable time for both of us.
In addition to all the fun things we were able to do together, Mazzy and I had one of our best conversations ever, over dinner one night. And when I say “best,” I mean a totally epic conversation that took so many twists and turns between serious topics, it was almost comical.
It started with Mazzy saying that being a waiter was the worst job you could possibly have because everybody just asks you to get them things. Then I told her that when I was in college, I waited tables (“Really???!!!!”) and it was one of my favorite jobs.
I told her about how it was really hard at first because you had to keep track of everybody’s table, who were all at different stages in their meal. I had to balance numerous plates on one big tray without it falling, learn how to open a wine bottle in front of an audience, memorize all the specials every night and learn when and when not to go through the swinging kitchen doors. I had to manage the attitude of the chef (who did not want to make any special orders) along with the attitudes of the customers (who believed they should get anything they wanted since they were paying for it) and make them both believe, in the end, that I was giving them what they wanted. I told her you had to make friends with the bartender so he got your drinks out in a timely manner and pay the busboys from your tips and trade tables with the other servers based on who you thought would give bigger tips to who. I recounted the day that everything clicked into place. After weeks of running around like a crazy person, I stepped back, had a glass of water and watched my section of the dining room operate that a well oiled machine. It felt GREAT. And then, once I had the logistics down, I could focus on charming the customers which would always bring bigger tips. I told her I never had as much cash on hand as when I waited tables in college.
Mazzy ate it all up. She loves when I tell stories about my past that she’s never heard before, and because she’s older now, I can add more context and detail which is fun. She wanted me to tell more stories and somehow, I think because I was taking too long to come up with another anecdote, this evolved into a conversation where she could ask me anything.
“What do you want to ask?”
“Ummmmm…I don’t know.”
“Is there something you have been wondering about?”
She paused. And then quietly and kind of hesitantly, she asked me something completely off topic that I was not expecting.
“What do they mean when they say families are being separated at the border?”
She said it in those exact words so I have to imagine she either overheard it on the news or maybe she overheard an adult discussion when we thought she wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t want to ask though. I just wanted to address her very valid question. Out of context, I can imagine how that had been weighing on her, especially since we had just crossed the Canadian border. At customs, I had taken out a letter from Mike saying it was okay. I thought about how to explain this one. I wanted to tell the truth but also make her understand that we were not risk.
I said that the United States has always been a place that welcomes people from other countries but recently, the government changed its policy to make it harder for new people to come in. We are lucky that we were born in the United States so we don’t have to worry. One thing they did to deter people from coming is put their children in a separate facility while the parents awaited a court date to see if they could stay. It was the wrong thing to do and they are trying to fix it now.
“Why do people want to come here?”
I told her that around the world, the United States has always been known as “the land of opportunity.” People want to come here to make better lives for themselves and their families. I also told her that some people are trying to escape more dangerous parts of the world, so they come here seeking safety. “Remember when we went to Ellis Island and saw Grammy’s name on the wall? That’s because she immigrated here from Germany after World War II.”
“Was Grammy in danger?”
That’s when I realized I had accidentally stumbled into a very large topic that we hadn’t discussed yet. At least, not at home. I took a breath. “Have you ever heard about the Holocaust?”
“I have, but I don’t understand what it is.”
I told her that a long time ago in Germany, before Grammy was even born, a man came into power who didn’t like Jewish people, so he tried to get rid of them.
“Did he try to kill them?”
“Why didn’t he like Jewish people?”
I told her that he didn’t have a good reason. He was just a bad person. Then I told her that many people practice different religions and sometimes, people are scared of the things that they are unfamiliar with and don’t understand. That’s why I am so happy we live in NYC, which is one of the most diverse cities in the world. We know people of all different religions and so, for us, practicing a different religion or observing different holidays is interesting and not scary.
That’s when Mazzy asked an even bigger question.
“Is God real?”
Truth be told, we don’t talk about God a lot in our house. We are Jewish and we go to temple, but I don’t think either Mike or I have firmly staked a claim one way or the other. If pressed, Mike would probably say that he doesn’t believe in God. I prefer to think about it a little more conceptually. I act as though God exists, even if I am unsure of his existence.
“I’m not sure,” I told her. That was the truth. I told her that everybody believes different things about God and for them, their version is real. I tried to explain that God is really the idea that there is a bigger meaning to life than our time here on earth and that there is something greater than laws telling us what is right from wrong.
“It’s not like God is a person, Mom. God is everywhere,” she added to the discussion. This is something Mazzy and Harlow learned in Hebrew school. I remember hearing them joke around about it at bedtime once. Harlow said, “God is not a man.” And then Mazzy said, “God is not a man or a woman. I prefer to think of him as a Brussel Sprout.” That made us all crack up.
“You’re right, Mazzy. God is a Brussel Sprout, remember?”
“And God is your shirt.”
“And God is that lamp shade.”
We went back and forth for a bit and made each other laugh. Then the check came.
“Let’s leave a nice tip,” I said. Mazzy nodded slowly with a big grin, understanding how our conversation had just come full circle.
After we paid the check, we went to use the bathroom in the restaurant. When I came out of the stall, Mazzy was waiting for me by the sinks.
“I have one more question,” she said. Then she pointed to the tampon machine. “What are those?”
I almost laughed at that one, because how many times in your life have you had a conversation that spanned from the Holocaust to menstruation? But that’s why this night was so amazing for us as mother and daughter. I had built trust. I had established myself as as someone who would listen, not laugh and tell the truth.
I explained that women bleed for a few days every month, but it does not feel like a cut, and we use tampons or pads to catch the blood, so we can go about our day.
“That’s gross, Mom.”
“It’s not gross. It’s just a natural part of being a girl.” (I figured I’d save the whole pregnancy part of the discussion for another time.)
“But that’s for when you are way older, like when you are a mom, right?” Mazzy asked hopefully.
“Ummm…no. Much earlier.”
“Like in your 20s?”
“Uhhh…probably more like 12 or 13.”
You should have seen her face. “WHAT???!!! That’s so soon!!!”
OH MY GOD, IT DOES SEEM SO SOON!!!!!!!! I screamed internally. But instead, I smiled calmly and said, “Don’t worry. You’ve still got a few more years. And you’ve got me to guide you through it.”
Later that night, after Mazzy was in bed, I got a text from Allie.
Yep. It was. I hope I’ve opened up the door for years to come.