A Little Bit of Both
A Daughter's Duality
As I sit on the floor, making funny faces, and voices, at the toddler that I nanny for, I wonder to myself,
“How is this my job, why do people pay me to do this?”
“How on earth, do I support myself by doing poor impressions of Elmo’s voice, and singing nursery rhymes all day?”
Why am I a subscribing member to the Super Simple Songs Youtube channel?”
My mother would say that I always had a nurturing disposition. I adored baby dolls from a young age, so much so, that at one point in my youth, I insisted upon having a toy car seat, strapped into the backseat of my mother’s Ford Taurus, so I could care for my precious baby Chu Chu doll everywhere that I went. This request was only half met, and much to my chagrin, my mother made me settle with a toy baby carrier instead, and reminded me, that it would not be a permanent fixture in her, already crowded with real children, back seat. According to my mother, my love, and my compassion for children, was an innate talent that I had always possessed, and one that she would argue, was much more inborn in me, than in comparison to her other daughters. That is not to say, by any means, that my sisters were bad with children, or even had no knack for it, but for me, it was just…natural, at least according to my mother. So that must be it, right? Nature, over nurture, case solved. I was always destined for this job, this life.
I suppose I have convinced myself that caring for children, is what I am best at, or maybe the only thing I am good at, or maybe, I just do it because it comes so easy, and “naturally,” to me that I do not even have to try. With that said, my mother’s opinion has always mattered very much to me, especially when I was younger. She was everything to me, simply because she had no other choice, but to be. This was mainly due to my father’s overall poor choices in life, and by poor choices, I mean, his all consuming drug habit. As my sisters and I grew older, my mother loved to use him as a an example of what not to do, and from a young adolescence we all already had a solid understanding of the havoc that drugs can wreak across one’s life. Since my mother had to be mother, and father, all at once, most days, this gave her, one could say, kind of a hard edge to her personality, and honestly to her appearance as well.
When I was about eight years old, she cut her hair in a boy style cut, because, she was, “tired of dealing with it.” My mother also had strong, lean, arms, molded by years of child carrying, and during the summer she had deeply tanned, slightly weathered looking skin, and would argue that because of some vague Latin ancestry on her father’s side, that she did not need as much sunscreen as her pale little children. My sister’s and I's easily sunburned pale skin, were all to be blamed on my father’s strong western European genes. My mother would also argue, that most things that were wrong with our lives, could be attributed to my father’s doing, or more so, his lack, thereof. To say the least, my mother had quite a poor opinion of men, in general, largely thanks to the men in her own life. She was also quite disillusioned with ideas of love and romance. She swore she would not be in a serious relationship with another man again after being with my father, and how poorly he had treated her.
Almost needless to say, my parent’s relationship did not last long. I think they split up when I was around four years old, and around that same time, we had lost the house we were renting, and had to downsize into an apartment. I do not have much memories of being four years old in general, so I definitely have no memories of my parents giving any kind of affection to one another, and ultimately, I had no idea of what a loving relationship between a mother and a father was, at all, while I was growing up. When my father passed away, when I was thirteen years old ,from an unfortunate car accident, I expected my mother to be upset, but not quite as upset, as she ended up being. My mother, who I could never remember giving my father so much as a hug, in the thirteen years that I knew him, was now clutching his box of ashes to her chest, and sobbing profoundly. I think it wasn’t until this moment, that my mother began to truly remember the man who she had loved so much, once upon a time. The man, who, through one way of reasoning or another, she chose to be the father of three of her children. This, being the same man, who had abused her, verbally, emotionally, who stole from her, who had chosen drugs instead of his family, time, and time again. Only then, as she clung to his ashes, did she also seem to remember the other kind of man, that he could also be, the man who was funny, quick to laugh, charming, classically handsome, and cunning. Perhaps, she finally remembered the man she met who sang Elvis, “pretty well,” at the bar that night, so many years ago, and decided to take a chance on things.
I have a lot of memories of my father being absent, not coming to school events, holidays or even birthdays. I also have memories of him tossing me over waves, playing card games, battling each other in guitar hero, rip roaring tickle sessions, and memories of his rough, and calloused hands rubbing my back when I was little, to help me sleep. I usually fashioned myself as much more of a “mommy’s girl,” when I was younger, and admired my mother’s quiet strength, and endurance that she possessed while simultaneously wishing to emulate her at times, steely disposition. For the longest time, I attributed many of my best traits to my mother, my good work ethic, my perseverance, my sentimentality. My whole life was supposed to be trying to stray as far away as possible from the path my father had paved for himself. However, nowadays, when I belt out a karaoke song, or do a silly voice to make a child laugh, some things that I consider to be very good, and fun traits, of mine, I think not of my mother, but my father.
While I was working at a preschool, I began questioning my time there, and if what I was doing was the right choice in my life at the time, was I really naturally good at this? One time while working there, I was pushing one of my favorite students at the time, on the swings, a small, but robust little girl. She was laughing, crying out, “Higher, Higher!” While my body was tired from pushing, and my mind was somewhat disillusioned with my whole idea of teaching, I nonetheless began to push her higher, enjoying her ferocious peals of laughter. In the same moment I could not help, but remember myself when I was younger, pleading the same thing to my own father, as he would push my sister, and I, on the swings. I am sure was tired from pushing two young girls, but also perhaps from feeling any ill effects drugs had done to his body thus far, but nonetheless, he usually pushed us higher.
My mother said that after my father passed, he told her in a dream that he would come to her as a hawk, to let her know that he was there with her. She would insist to my siblings and me that seeing a hawk was a sign of our dad. I remember that day, as I pushed the little girl higher, I looked up into the bright blue, California sky, and saw a hawk passing by. Maybe it was because, of the gophers in the ground of the preschool below, or maybe it was a sign. Was this my father trying to give me some reassurance that I was where I was meant to be in my life, by having the memory of the swings, sending me the hawk? Is it my innate natural ability to work with children, or was it… could it possibly be…him? It was then that I began to wonder,
“Am I like my mother?”
“Am I like my father?”
Perhaps, it is a bit of both.
“Was my father a good man, or a bad man?”
“Was it just a hawk, or was it my dad?”
“Am I meant to be a teacher for the rest of my life, or is there another calling for me?”
“Is it nurture, or is it destiny?”
Then I think, that maybe, it’s just…