My Daughter and Her Duck
I braced myself for my daughter's usual blowup. Then something amazing happened.
I sat in my car waiting for my 7-year-old daughter to be dismissed from school. I prayed. I did deep-breathing techniques. I mentally reviewed excerpts from “Raising Your Spirited Child”. I meditated on how I would lovingly welcome her home after a long day and not criticize her, no matter how grumpy or moody she was.
I arranged my biggest smile and prepared for the worst. Healthy, I know.
I was surprised to be met with my daughter’s rare but truly radiant mega-watt smile, as she carried a giant box that she attempted to balance as she opened the car door.
“Hi Sweetie!” I exclaimed with an authenticity I haven’t felt in a long time. “What’s in the box?”
I gingerly took a peek. A tiny yellow duckling peered back at me with shiny black eyes. My daughter’s green ones were equally bright.
“Can we keep him? My teacher lets!”
I stammered a response, hemmed and hawed about where he’d stay, and since I was in the bus lane and cars were honking, I said, “Okay," and hoisted our new family member into the car.
Aside from a minor incident on the way home in which our furry friend hopped into my baby’s car seat as I was buckling her and almost put me into cardiac arrest, we arrived home safe and sound.
I braced myself for my daughter’s usual angry blowup upon entering the house and the inevitable, un-instigated altercation with her younger sister. Instead, I was delighted to see my daughter take her backpack to her room (without being asked!), and then proceed to gently set the duck’s box down on the living room floor, calmly lifting him out.
I watched in awe as she happily introduced her new friend to her excited little sister. She even took great care to ensure our baby wouldn’t get too close to the duck, for both of their sakes.
The girls played sweetly with their adorable pet for a while, and then my daughter politely asked if she could go outside and search for a larger box to make the duck more comfortable.
During the hour when she’d usually be ignoring my requests for help for the 25th time and picking petty fights with her siblings, my daughter was displaying an empathy and decorum usually only seen in the presence of a hefty bribe (no judgement, please). Not wanting to scare off this unicorn, I silently nodded and secretly wondered why I hadn’t thought of this magic years ago.
While making dinner, I looked up to see her suddenly crying.
“Well, that was short-lived,” I grumbled to myself. I gathered the fortitude to address what is usually the first of many nightly emotional outbursts.
Kids like my oldest, these wild, wonderful, labelled-too-many-acronyms-to-count beings are just more. They feel more, they hurt more, and they are usually more of a pain in my side. When I asked my daughter why she was sad and how I could help, she said that she was bawling her eyes out because she realized her duck is not meant to be all alone.
“He misses his Mommy and his other 11 ducks back at school,” she sniffed.
I caressed her tear-stained cheeks, touched by this rarely-shown compassion, and agreed that we probably do not have the most optimal living conditions for a baby duck.
“Let’s just call it a sleepover and bring him back tomorrow,” I suggested.
“Or we could get a second duck!” she said, grinning with her signature wit.
She calmed down (in record time) and proceeded to take Snap Chat pictures with her duck, play music for him and make him a cozy bed. She ate dinner with the yellow fluff ball cuddled in her lap.
During bath time, my daughter was soaped, rinsed, and pajama-clad without even needing to be urged to get into the shower because she didn’t want her duck to miss her.
Finally, after what seemed like the hundredth book and cuddle, my daughter began her frequent descents from the top bunk under the guise of “needing to check on my duck”. But somehow it was less irritating.
I’m going to miss that little guy when we return him to school tomorrow morning. I hope the lessons he taught me about my daughter's true character will last infinitely longer than his stay.
But I guess that's really up to me.