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Who's The Parent Here?

So Monday morning Cora and I got through
the whole taking-Maddie-to-school thing, and then immersed
ourselves in work. We made jam with all the berries we’ve
been saving up over the summer, and while the jars cooled on the
racks we went out and drowned our sorrows with shopping.

Cora starts pre-school – and heck, for that matter, ANY kind
of school – next Monday, and I told her we’d hit the
Container Store and buy some more small, kid-friendly containers
for her lunch boxes. Cora was standing in the midst of the kitchen
department, earnestly trying out snapping lids and plastic covers
and debating between a couple different kinds, and let me tell you,
she was looking so adorable I couldn’t help myself.

“Cora,” I said playfully as I scooped her up in my
arms, “I have to tell you something.”
“What?” she asked, looking directly at me.
“I’ve decided that you’re not going to school
next week. I’m going to keep you home with me and
you’re never going to school.”

Less worried and more puzzled, Cora cocked
her head to one side. “Why?”

“Well,” I said as lightly as I could, “I think
I’m just going to miss you too much. So I’m going to
have to keep you home with me. Bottom line, kid, I think I’d
be a little lost without you.”

“Oh, Mommy,” Cora said earnestly, “I have to go
to school. You don’t have a choice.”

I cocked my head to one side. “Why?”

“Because I’m a kid, and that’s part of my
job,” she said seriously, still nestled in my arms in the
middle of the Container store, all thoughts of plastic storage
bowls forgotten. “I’m a kid, and my jobs are to keep
growing and getting stronger and smarter and having lots of fun.
It’s my job, you see, and so I have to go to school.

“But you,” she said, putting one hand lightly on my
cheek, “You are a Mommy, and part of your job is to miss me
while I’m gone.”

As I was trying not to cry here, Cora continued thinking.

“You know, Mommy, I’ve got this worked out. Every time
Gamma leaves the house while I’m at school, you go with her.
And every time she comes home, you come home with her. And when you
go someplace, make sure you two go there in the same car. And that
way, you’ll never be lost and you’ll never be

And with that she smiled with the satisfaction of someone
who’s worked everything out to perfection, scrambled down,
and ran back to her plastic bowls.

I spent the rest of the day hugging that conversation closely to my
chest, and I’d sort of made up my mind not to tell anyone
about it – some nuggets I like to hoard to myself, so that I
might bring them out for a spot of brightness on a bad day –
but then Cora approached my mom at dinner.

“Gamma, I need you to do me a favor,” she said. I
looked up, suddenly aware of where this might be going. My mom
sensed the seriousness and gave Cora her full attention.
“Yes, Cora, what do you need?”

“Listen, after I start school, every time you go somewhere,
you need to make sure Mommy goes there too, and every time you come
home, make sure you bring her with you. And especially make sure
you go and come back in the same car, ok? So Mommy never gets

Puzzled, my mother nonetheless agreed, and I couldn’t keep
her big heartedness to myself. I told the story at dinner, and Cora
smiled bashfully and shrugged, nodding earnestly when I talked
about her making sure I wasn’t lonely or lost.

That kid breaks my heart, and every time she does, I realize my
heart’s just breaking open to make room for it to get


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