A month ago, I shared the Kindergarten post with my literary magazine students to flip the script and have them evaluate my writing–a rightful exchange since I put them on vulnerable platforms daily. One student said she’d never thought about all the considerations parents make, and that alone was enough for me.
In total, their feedback was very helpful and encouraging on a personal level.
And some really made me think.
It’s true that so much of my introspection involves Layla. I think it’s natural since she was in so many ways my first. At the end of the critique rounds, I promised my students and myself that I’d write about Zade next.
Writing this piece, however, confirms I can rarely write about Zade without writing about Layla. In fact, I’ve reconstructed this simple post for a few nights now and have decided to leave creativity out of it and flesh out this interesting situation instead.
A few nights ago I wrote this:
Zade doesn’t like to experiment with food; Layla will try anything at least once. Zade won’t follow rules that don’t suite him; Layla would only bend a rule if she felt it wasn’t logical, like a circuit was clearly missing and she was sure she could fix it. Zade demands and competes; Layla urges and appeases. Zade dives in; Layla makes decisions. Both complement each other, and both make me the constant observer.
I got a cute anecdote in there about Zade and only about Zade:
One day I was exasperated at his eating habits. Like a short-order cook, I made him what he asked, and then he wouldn’t eat it. Unraveling, I blurted, “Zade, you don’t like this, and you don’t like that. What do you like?!” With toddler honesty, he yelled back, “I like YOU, mommy! I just like you!” Zade is the forever baby who caresses my face gently in the middle of the night or slings his cool arm over my neck if I shift slightly away from him. He’s the ultimate romantic who says, “Mommy, I love you,” before he barely opens his eyes.
And now I just give up:
It doesn’t matter how much I love each child, or how each different personality moves me, or how fortunate Kal and I are that these two souls found their way into our lives.
Because all roads lead back to Layla.
I see Zade through Layla. She came into this world and made me a mother 6 years ago.
And sweet Zade came into this world and made her a sister 2 years later. Even their birthdays are just days apart.
So it boils down to this for me now:
After Zade was born, Layla held him in her small arms and made a silent vow to him. She looked through me and knew what I needed her to be for him. She did for me what I searched to do for her when I tried to learn what raising a child was like. She absorbed responsibility; she became this small extension that would see through me and make us all better. She translates for him when I can’t figure out what he needs. Even he wants her around him all the time; in fact, I don’t know if he knows how to be him without her for very long. I can tell by this lost expression he has on his face, the one where he looks like he’s waiting for her to come back so he can get back to the stuff that he really wants to do.
Her power moves me and shapes how I see our family.
I just can’t help it.