NaNoWriMo: Of tattoos and other things

Abigail has no true interest in potty training. I mean, she has two potties, and will talk about going, but putting it all together is a hill we’ve yet to climb. This, however, doesn’t stop her from asking to join me every time I go.

The worst part – and it is, I’m sorry – is that now I just tell her I’m going to the bathroom and would she like to join me? Because inevitably if I don’t, the synapses in her brain will misfire and it’ll register as “Mama is doing something fun without me,” and it’s my job to show her just how fun sitting on a toilet is.

Or something.

About two weeks ago, we went through this exercise and, per usual, I talked through what I was doing. When it got to the part where I stood up to button my pants, the child started to point and laugh. I won’t go into the details of what she said or the subsequent conversation – this post has only seven sentences to show for it and I’ve already gone past the point of TMI – but it was a moment where as a parent you realize your days of dropping f-bombs and operating mindlessly about your life are numbered. THEY NOTICE THINGS.

Sure they don’t always notice the right things or know the complete context of things, but you’re likely to hear the word “shit” used appropriately is all I’m saying.

Last night after dinner, Abigail asked about one of my tattoos. Much is made about what my generation has or has not contributed to the world. If there is anything I think we can safely own it is that we’ve managed to dilute the power of permanent ink of skin. What was once the sole province of the hard core is now the story of some yoga pant-wearing thirtysomething and her need to commemorate Lilith Fair 1997. I contributed to this situation; my first tattoo was in 1994. The next, 1999. My final? 2006. I never saw myself as someone who sported tattoos – and let’s be honest, none of my tattoos are even remotely in plan sight – but once I started it was tough to stop.

I still wish I had the cajones to tattoo the Chicago flag somewhere. Scott and I talked for quite some time about getting it tattooed on the back of our necks but thought better of it. We both like our tattoos but we knew that ship had sailed for us.

Anyway, so AG noticed my tattoo as I was finishing up in the bathroom. A faded, nearly 20-year old celestial sun, it is a remnant of a trend that has since not seen the light of day. My two dear friends from high school and I – all good, honor students we – wanted to commemorate turning 18 with something more than registering to vote, which tells you about the kind of kids we were. On our 18th birthdays, we each marked the day with the same sun, in the same place. I suppose I’d have more regrets about such a tattoo were it not for my fond memories of those days of my life with those girls. We’re still in touch, and we still laugh about what we did.

So it’s not as though I have a “thing” about tattoos, of course. But the sort of conversation I want to have with Abigail about things like tattoos – like drugs, sex, boy bands and processed foods, any number of things that I feel need more nuance than a cop out of a stern reprimand or a scary shout down, especially when I don’t think that’s appropriate if I want to raise an intelligent person – is a conversation I’m not at all prepared for. We all like to think we’re ready to be the sort of parents we want to be, until we find ourselves post-kitchen clean-up, in the downstairs bathroom, our toddler forcibly lifting up our shirts, poking a short, chubby little index finger into our hip and asking, “What is THAT?!”

I told her it was my picture of a sun. And that it’s pretty and it reminds me of my friends. And then I hurriedly shoved her away from my midsection, and scurried her out the door, away from the topic.

This is all to say that she’s growing up. And that while parenting her began the minute the surgeon lifted her out, the tougher stuff looms. Today it’s a quick overview of body art, tomorrow it’s figuring out how to have an honest conversation about pot, especially after she asks me if we’ve ever smoked any and her father proudly exclaims that he hasn’t and I do that ridiculous eye shift I do when I’m trying to hold it together because I own no working poker face.

For now I’m grateful she accepts my short, but truthful answer. For now I hope that the most she aspires to is the word “Mom” inked somewhere inconspicuous in case she has second thoughts. Ours is not a world that provides enough space for such things.