Every few months, Zoe complains that her legs hurt. Usually, it's her left leg below her knee. Sometimes it's her lower right leg. Since I'm a modern, educated mom, my first thought, naturally, was bone cancer.
My second, and more likely, thought was growing pains. My third thought was: "Let's check the Internet just to make sure it's not bone cancer even though I know everything I read will only make me even more certain that it is."
Growing Pains. Not Just an '80s TV Show
Growing Pains. Not Just an '80s TV Show
Zoe's lower-leg pain most often comes upon her when it's time for bed, so a reasonable person might suppose, considering her long rap sheet of delaying tactics, a sheet so long she could sleep under it if she were so inclined, which she is not, that this was yet another one. After all, she'd been fine a few minutes before she started complaining, when she'd insisted she had to finish her show-slash-interpretive dance as a unicorn called Rainbow Universe Everything Anything. No pain at all while she spun around and dramatically threw herself to the floor, but now that it was time to settle down . . . agony. And I had to rub her legs. No cancer, less truth, I figured.
But then the other night the pain in her legs woke her and she was crying from it, and so I rubbed her legs on the couch as the Husband and I watched The Hunt for Red October on mute, which was okay because we know all the words, and the first time Zoe sees it I'd like it to seem fresh.
Eventually, she fell asleep and the next morning she was fine.
Holes, Holes, and More Holes
Zoe and her growing up are both unstoppable forces. This means she's tough on clothes. It seems like all her pants have a hole in their right knees. The Husband usually dresses her in the morning, and when I pick her up at night and see the hole in her right knee, I experience that creeping shame all moms are familiar with---even in these supposed modern times---that others will judge us. Bad mother!
However, I also know she's running out of outfits she's "willing to wear" that don't have holes in their right knees, and even if they didn't have a hole in the morning, they would by the time I picked her up---she's that good, folks.
But the physical growth pales in comparison to the mental growth with its accompanying uncomfortable questions that I struggle to answer intelligently and honestly.
Why are girls different from boys?
Why do you have to work all the time?
What did that lady mean when she said there's an orange Cheeto in the White House?
One she hasn't asked yet but I know she will soon is: What happens after we die?
The first death in Zoe's life, that she noticed, was our cat Harley's. Zoe was about four and a half, and she didn't understand why we'd never see Harley again. Every few weeks she'd ask again, and I'd go over it again. Harley was not coming back. And no, we couldn't go where she was to visit. We were not Julia Roberts in Flatliners, or, since that movie was before her time, we were not Draco Malfoy's dad in The OA (though I don't think Zoe gets Netflix either).
Chicken Bone or Dog Bone?
Recently, a relative died, and we debated about bringing her to the wake. Was she too young or, being a curious and observant child, would it disturb her more if she wasn't allowed to come and worried over why she was being left out?
In the end, we decided to bring her, and the first question she asked when she saw the body in the casket was: Where's her feet?
Throughout the day her questions evolved. When we were leaving to drive to the church, she wanted to know if my relative was coming with us. And what about after that?
I was waiting for her to ask if we'd see her again because I'd been wondering what I'd tell her. A protective lie? And who would I be protecting exactly? Or just the truth, which was: I don't know. But she didn't ask.
A week later, Zoe and I were walking down the street, her picking up rocks and handing them to me to put in my pocket, and we came across some garbage that must've fallen out of a trashcan. She was reaching to pick something up when I stopped her.
"What is it?" she asked.
"It looks like a chicken bone."
"No, I don't think so," she said, peering closer.
"What do you think it is?"
"A dog bone."
"It's too small. It must be a chicken bone."
"But chickens don't play with bones."
Oh, I thought. Epiphany. To Zoe, her association upon seeing a bone was not "animal killed and eaten by people," it was "toy for dog." I'd gotten so used to thinking of her as my little evil mastermind in training that I sometimes forget she's six.
That's when I realized I didn't need to worry so much about how to answer her future questions. By the time she was ready to ask the big questions, she'd be ready for honest answers.
Just let them stay on chicken-bone level for a while longer.
Zoe: 155; Universe: 0
If you enjoyed this post, you may like this one,
in which we consider cryogenically freezing our cat.