“What’s for dinner? Can I help? Please, please, oh please can I help?”
“No! Hayley. I’m sorry but I’m in a hurry! I don’t have time for your ‘help’ right now.”
I’m peeling potatoes and throwing them into the pot.
She looks dejectedly up at me, thick, golden blonde hair falling into her small, heart-shaped face. She brushes it defiantly away, and stomps from the kitchen. I hear her in the living room, crying now, almost uncontrollably.
“Honey, what should I do?” I turn to my husband who has watched this exchange with bemusement.
“Don’t laugh at me! I hate when you do that!”
Grinning now, he prods me gently in the side. “That’s what you get with a ‘mini-me’ in the house!”
Mini-me. When did we start calling her that? Was it when she began to stand like me? Or was it when we found her talking on her play phone to an imaginary client in a voice and tone that sounded eerily like mine?
I glance over at Terry and shrug helplessly, “I know. But she wants to help all the time.”
“How else is she going to learn?”
“But it’s so time-consuming! Why can’t she be more like the other kids and just play until dinnertime?” The water in the pot splashes now as I violently pitch the potatoes in.
Terry stands by patiently, sipping his coffee, waiting for the inevitable venting to dribble to an end.
“She slows me down with all her questions, and then, when I do go to help her with something she gets upset because she wants to do it perfectly, the first time!”
“Are you done yet?”
“No…Maybe…Yes. I’m done.” I half-laugh as I realize just how much like Hayley I sounded in that last sentence.
Distantly I hear Hayley bemoaning her lot to her sympathetic sister, “She won’t let me help her! And when I do, she wants to show me how to do everything! It’s not fair!”
I hear the gentle murmur of her sister’s voice as she calms Hayley down.
Terry taps me gently on the arm. Earnestly he says, “Go in there and talk to her. I’ll take over. How hard can it be to peel some potatoes?”
I sigh deeply, but give him the peeler; and quickly run my hands under some warm water, and dry them on the dishrag that hangs from my shoulder.
Moving into the living room I notice Hayley eyeing me warily from her place on the couch, dark smudges under her eyes from all her crying. Oh boy, yet one more thing we have in common!
“Hayley, I’m sorry I lost my cool with you.”
“It’s OK.” She says the words, but I can tell she doesn’t mean it. Her tear-stained face is strained, and she has crawled into a corner of the couch, knees drawn up to her chin.
“Can I sit down?”
I plop next to her on the brown, generously proportioned sofa and pat her knee gently.
“Wanna talk about it?”
“Mom, you make me so mad! I love to help you, but you always say ‘No!’” The words came flooding from her, a torrent of hurt and distress.
I reach over to hug her, tears threatening to spill over onto my cheeks. “Hayley. I had no idea you felt so strongly about it.”
“You’re my hero, mom. I want to be just like you when I grow up!”
I sit back, stunned with the latest revelation that just issued from her mouth.
Me? Her hero? Get out of town! That can’t be! Lord, tell me what to do here!
Just as soon as I think it, I realize she’s right. In her eyes, I’m her everything. She wants to follow me, to be just like me. She looks up to me. Me, with all my faults, and my temper, and my talkativeness. I’m her hero. She is my disciple, my follower.
I stand up, and hold out my hand to her. “Wanna come help me make some dinner?”
“Really?” Her face lights up.
She takes my hand, disentangling herself from the couch. Together we take the few steps into the kitchen, to work together, to learn together.