I’m pretty sure Nature is trying to kill me.
But you can’t explain that to a three-year-old.
So, because the weather was so beautiful, and I couldn’t use any of my usual excuses (too hot, too cold, too wet, too muddy, too dark, or too windy), I was forced into agreeing to go play outside. Dammit. After slathering the both of us with sunblock and then bug spray, taking an extra Zyrtec, and saying a quick prayer for mercy from the almighty and not-so-forgiving Environment, I grudgingly took Iris out to our front yard to blow bubbles.
Iris loves blowing bubbles. Or, more correctly, Iris loves watching me blow the bubbles that she runs after and pops. I am going to admit right now that I am an awful mother because, while I adore watching Iris laughing and squealing with delight, I hate bubbles. It is a horribly boring and repetitive activity. After two or three minutes of bubbles, I was bored and ready to be done. Iris, on the other hand…. “More! Blow more bubbles, Mommy!” Then she wanted to try to blow the bubbles (an activity that involves dripping, spilling, getting too much or too little of the bubble stuff on the bubble wand, blowing too hard to produce an actual bubble, getting frustrated, and then thrusting the wand back at me so I have to blow more bubbles). Twenty or thirty minutes later, Iris was pink-cheeked and slimy with bubble goo. And I was covered an untold number of mosquito bites (because, apparently, the bug spray was just joking).
But were we done with outside, yet?
No. No, we were not.
Because then Iris wanted to chalk. Sidewalk chalk. Getting-color-all-over-every-part-of-your-body. (Seriously, whenever she plays with chalk, I expect that Iris will get some on her hands and arms and even on her face but, the last time we did this, at bath time later that night, I discovered a big rainbow patch on her butt. Not the seat of her pants. The actual skin of her butt. I still can’t figure out how she managed that.)
Anyway, Iris and I drew flowers and her favorite cartoon characters and trees and clouds and the sun and stars and waves and shapes and patterns and a giant that has a really tiny body when you compare it to the immense length of his legs, which reach from the bottom of our driveway all the way up into our garage.
When Iris had taxed the very last ounce of my very limited artistic abilities, and we had spent time on her tricycle, and she had run in circles on the cul-de-sac showing me how fast she could be, and she’d picked a whole “bouquet” of three-leafed clovers for me, I attempted to hint at a suggestion that maybe, just maybe, it was time to go back inside.
Which was a mistake.
Which was a mistake that involved a quivering lower lip and a, small, sad, verge-of-tears break in her voice when she said, “Can we pretend we don’t have to go inside?”
Shit. Shit. Shit.
“Okay, honey, we can stay outside a little longer,” I said, lying down on my back on the driveway. I was tired. Probably from the mosquitos draining my blood supply.
Iris lay down on the driveway next to me, looking up at the sky, “What are we watching, Mommy?”
Right about now you’ve skipped ahead in the story, haven’t you? You’re anticipating. You think I said “clouds” and then I taught Iris about finding shapes and animals and other things in the clouds, aren’t you? You’re sitting there imagining some charming, idyllic scene, aren’t you?
Well, stop it.
The only part you were right about is that I told Iris I was looking at the clouds.
Iris: No! Not clouds!
Me: We’re not watching clouds?
Iris: No. We are watching Callissa!
Me: Callissa? Who is Callissa?
Iris: My dinosaur.
Me: You have a dinosaur?
Iris: Yes. She flies. (pointing up) See?
Me: (heavy sigh) We’re going to need a bigger house.
Seriously. Do you KNOW how big pterodactyls get? Full grown, they’re the size of a small plane. Where in the name of zookeepers everywhere am I going to find room in my house for a fucking flying lizard?
Yes, yes, I know dinosaurs are extinct. I’m not crazy. But, in our house, we live in Iris’s reality. It’s easier.
Because you tell her that Callissa the flying dinosaur is both imaginary and invisible and see how far you get.
I promise you it’ll be just like the time, a couple of weeks ago, when Iris and I were running errands. By the third store, not only was I tired and cranky, but I really needed to pee. I was getting Iris out of her car seat in the busy parking lot when I noticed that she was refusing to hold my hand.
Me: Iris, you need to hold Mommy’s hand.
Iris: (holding both hands cupped in front of her like she had something in each of them) I caaaaaaan’t.
Me: (starting to get irritated) Iris, there are a lot of cars in this parking lot, you need to hold my hand.
Iris: But, Mommy! Samoona and Bomondo!
Me: (noticing her cupped hands) Who and what?
Iris: My snails! (holding up one cupped hand to show me) Samoona (holding up the other cupped hand) and Bomondo.
Me: (sighing heavily and trying again to take one of Iris’s hands while, simultaneously, doing the potty dance) Samoona and Bomondo are just pretend. The cars in this parking lot are not.
Iris: (yanking her arm away from me) But my snaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiillllllls!
Me: (taking a moment and deciding that not wetting myself was more important than arguing the point) Sweetie, you can hold both your snails in one hand and then hold Mommy’s hand with the other, okay?
And it WORKED!
But, it came at a price. Because now we live in the Land of Iris, where there are a LOT of animals that you can’t deny or ignore. And we are being crowded out, let me tell you. Just yesterday, I was refused a seat on our large sectional sofa because I might sit on one of the creatures with whom I am obliged to share my home.
Aside from our actual, real, you-can-see-her dog, Penny, we have, of course, Samoona, Bomondo, and Callissa, then we have two cats (one black, and one pink), an owl, a polar bear, a grizzly bear, three monkeys (one who is probably a gorilla, but it’s hard to tell with the invisible, imaginary ones), an otter, a hawk, a green tiger, a snake, a spider, two foxes who are both boys, a crab, a hamster, a seal, a duck, a Canadian goose, three horses, a flock of butterflies, a colony of bats, and an elephant.
And a lot of bunny rabbits. In all different colors. Because imaginary, invisible bunny rabbits are, apparently, a lot like regular bunny rabbits in that we started with just two and now we have seventeen. Similarly, we used to have two alligators, but, this morning, when Iris showed them to me, counting each one as she moved down our entire upstairs hallway, I found out that the current count is fourteen. And we have two crocodiles. Because Iris just learned there is a difference, even if she doesn’t know what the difference is.
(For the record, one should never suggest that some of these animals are carnivores and might be tempted to eat others of these animals, unless one is willing to endure the resultant crying fit. Our entire imaginary, invisible menagerie is made up of vegetarians. Just go with it.)
And a week ago, Iris announced she wants to be a cowgirl when she grows up. And cowgirls, she says, ride unicorn horsies. Pink unicorn horsies. And wash cows. Rainbow cows. And, because I am her mother, I want her to be the best damned cowgirl she can be, so I think she should be able to get some practice. So, now I have to find her a pink unicorn horsie (complete with lasso and Western saddle) and an entire herd of rainbow cattle.
I don’t even know where one would find rainbow cattle.
So, lying there on my driveway today with my beautiful, maddening, inventive, amusing daughter, watching Callissa the flying dinosaur circle overhead, I contemplated where I could find some cheap acreage – perhaps an abandoned zoo? – and tried to avoid dinosaur poop. Because dinosaur poop is huge and I'm sure it's worse than chalk residue and bubble goo.