When Natalie was born, I had some doubts as to her origin. There was absolutely no question that Daniel was the father—she was a tiny Bassett photocopy with his Lebanese ancestry peeking through her impossibly dark eyes—but who her mother was, none could tell. Neither her features nor her easy acceptance of being alive pointed to my genetics. And while I loved seeing the many bonds she shared with her daddy, I ached for more proof than leaking milk and a C-section scar that she was my girl.
Fast forward four years. I am yelling at Natalie out of frustration, and feeling guilty because I’m not a yelling mom, I’M NOT, and wondering how my sweet preschooler ends up so deep under my skin, and wallowing in the shame of misplaced intentions when I finally see it: her personality. Proof that we are cut from the same emotional fabric… and yes, the reason why we so often run into each other like road blocks when we’re trying to connect.
She and I have precision wound tightly into our DNA, a virtue I finally started to see as a fault in adulthood. Things must be just so, or the world will fall to bits. We are right, and if this is not universally acknowledged, our heads will implode. The IKEA mug goes there. “Caramel” is pronounced like this. Blue-green is so very different from green-blue. I was at least halfway through college before I realized people are allowed to have various and conflicting opinions, and I continue to be grateful that the burden of rightness is no longer mine to foist on humankind. However, relativism is still beyond the grasp of four-years-old. I get frustrated that she will not taste my soup created from ingredients she loves, and she gets frustrated that I force her to use dinnerware that is neither pink nor princessy. Our brains lock.
And then the next morning, she wakes up with a fever. It’s nothing serious, more summer flush than griddle-hot skin, but her small voice wakes up every mother-urge in me. Natalie finds a nest on my pillow, and I find another piece of proof: tenderness, the kind that cannot be manufactured for anyone else’s children. Fierce, elemental tenderness, strong enough to carry us through any kind of sickness and deep enough to carve allowances into our personalities. And I realize this, this, is my daughter’s origin.