Parenthood is a strange contract. It’s like signing up for a sport you’ve never played before and hoping you’ll be good at it.
Valerie is, as it turns out, a natural. Of course, it’s hard to word exactly what she’s doing. It’s the way she goes to Edie and seems to know what she wants. The way Edie leans into her. The way she can put her to bed and Edie feels safer because she’s doing it.
When I grow up, I want to be a good parent like Valerie.
Here’s a few things I can share though. Some of the noticeable moments that are choices and not just organic nurture.
VALERIE CHANGES THE CHARACTERS OF EDIE’S BOOKS INTO GIRLS
Not all the time. But where she can. I like this. I like watching her make Edie into the hero of the things she reads. I’m so used to being a boy. Seeing the male image dominate my media. But Val is wrestling that idea away from Edie. Giving her an identity in what she looks through.
I adore Valerie for this. I’ve tried to follow her example. Edie should see herself everywhere. Valerie has picked books with female characters. We like Olivia and Maisy and the only shows she watches are Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and Charlie and Lola. Sometimes I wonder if Edie sees herself in little blond British Lola.
Next to Edie's bed is an illustration of a tree with a little girl hiding behind it. Even before Edie could understand, Valerie would hold her up to the picture and point out the little girl and say, “There’s Edie.” Now Edie knows the hiding girl is her. Edie is the hero of her own life. All Val’s doing.
VALERIE TEACHES EDIE PLAY IS SERIOUS
There’s this post that I love. I look at it every few days. Valerie takes the best pictures of Edie. I feel like she captures who she is. The joy that wells up over and over in Edie at what she sees in the world.
I know good moms play with their kids. That’s a given. But I’d never been around the day-to-day doings of moms. (Except my own. Sorry I don’t remember it, Mom.) But Valerie lets Edie do the things she’s doing. And it’s play. It’s all play. Valerie speaks to Edie as they do things together. She turns life into play. Edie loves to water the plants, cook dinner (shake the spices), put things in the trash, clean up her room.
I heard recently how play to children is completely serious. It’s how they learn to navigate the world. They may enjoy doing it. But to them, acting out the adult world is complete seriousness. Edie makes about 50 calls a day on fake phones. I think she’s handling Val’s gambling debts.
Val is good at treating Edie not like a doll to be played with but a human being who is capable of learning the functions of life. And that life isn’t joyless tasks but a series of events that can be accomplished with smiles and some cookies.
VALERIE FOLLOWS HER DREAMS SO EDIE CAN FOLLOW HER OWN DREAMS
This is more big picture. More long term. But Valerie makes sure that her life is not being eaten up by Edie alone. Or me. Or the house. Where she can find time, she works on her thesis. She read the texts at night, she edits and writes during Edie’s nap time.
She writes her own pieces. She had a piece in the New Era if you haven’t read it. She keeps a smart and interesting blog.
She acts in plays when she can. She’s in a play right now. She finished a play earlier this year. (I have plans for her to finish a new play of mine later this year. (She’s my muse for all female characters I write. Why wouldn’t she be?)
She edits and critiques other people’s work. She has a friend’s full-length book on her desk and another friend’s screenplay. She’s intelligent and savvy and her opinion is spot on. Most of my work has her stamp on it. (She’s my most important editor.)
She’s not doing it to prove anything to anyone. Valerie’s doing it because this is what she wants to do with her life. And Edie will see that and know that she’s expected to follow and increase her talents. In the Best home, Dream Following is House Rule #1.