Rather than endure the expense of day care, we decided to keep Reilly home with me while I was on maternity leave for Jake. As a career-minded woman, the stay-at-home gig posed a bit of a challenge. Juggling a newborn’s feeding and sleeping schedule while attempting to provide a precocious two-year-old with constant stimulation proved to be difficult. But Reilly made it interesting, if not taxing.
One day, when Jake was about two weeks old, Reilly became very quiet while playing alone in her room. As a google of mothers before me had discovered, toddlers are only silent when they are sleeping. Or conniving. This determination is usually made after discovering baby powder poured out all over the carpet, or lipstick scribbles drawn on walls and mirrors.
After about fifteen minutes, Reilly emerged from her room, dressed to the nines. Her getup consisted of the following: red, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pajamas; black patent leather shoes; black sunglasses tinted pink and rimmed with pastel-colored peonies; a gold, gemstone-studded tiara; a wooden crucifix on a black ribbon; and a purple embroidered, ‘What Would Jesus Do’ bracelet. Instinctively, I grabbed my camera.
I stalked her for a while. She was mumbling to herself. Finally, my curiosity got the better of me.
I asked her, “Whatcha doin’?”
She replied, “I’m going to Rascal’s Party.”
Okay. Beyond my daughter being called ‘little rascal’ by some relative at some obscure moment in time, I have no idea where ‘Rascal’ came from. But I was going to ride this train into the station.
There was much laughter in my head, but I composed myself enough to continue to engage her.
I asked, “Who’s Rascal?”
“He’s my friend,” she replied.
I asked where she had met him.
At my school, was her answer.
When I reminded Reilly that she didn’t yet attend school, she furrowed her brow in annoyance.
I decided to retreat and observe from a distance.
She continued to mumble to herself. I turned off the washing machine and the television so that I could listen more intently. She was play-acting the role of party-planner for ‘Rascal’. Her conversation involved purchasing balloons, inviting the rest of ‘their’ friends, getting presents. She asked me for some stickers, and I obliged, providing her with some personalized address labels that showed up uninvited in the mailbox one day, courtesy of some charitable organization. A few minutes later, I noticed the stickers were placed on the wall of my dining room. When I asked Reilly why she put stickers on the wall, when obviously stickers do not belong on walls, they belong on paper, I was told, “Rascal told me to.”
Clearly, Rascal and I were fixin’ to come to blows.
I suggested that she tell Rascal I wanted to talk to him.
I was not at all prepared for the following response:
“That would be great, Mom. I need to call him anyway so that I can get directions to his house.”