I wrote this piece when London was a toddler. Enjoy.
"Are you happy, Mommy?" It’s a question my two and a half year old daughter asks repeatedly throughout the day. I’m not sure where she first heard it or why it has stuck in her mind so. Who can explain the vast intricacies of the toddler mind? Who would even try?
Even though I hear the question a multitude of times in any given day, it still makes me think with each utterance. "Are you happy, Mommy?" Well, the house smells like spilled milk and dirty diapers from you and your two younger siblings. But I guess I’m okay.
There doesn’t seem to be any clear pattern to her questioning - just randomly checking the emotional status of her primary care giver. Good business skill, I suppose. "Are you happy, Mommy?" I haven’t completed one chapter of the novel I’ve been reading for two weeks. My hair cut is looking shaggy because it’s hard to take four children to the salon. But, hey, I’m feeling alright.
Sometimes she asks the question when I am most certainly not happy. At the precise moment she has discovered a hole in her sippy cup and has delightedly poured said cup’s entire contents on the kitchen floor. "Are you happy, Mommy?" Well, you see, I’m not a big fan of scrubbing floors anyway and I really don’t have time to clean up this mess. The dryer’s buzzer just went off and your brother is spreading squash all over his highchair. You’re still wearing your pajamas and your sister has a doctor’s appointment in ten minutes. I’m not really sure this moment qualifies as being happy. Check with me later.
I imagine she must question other members of the family in the same manner, although I have not heard her badgering them at the same level at which she badgers me. I am serving lunch to four young children for the six hundredth and twelfth time, but who’s counting? "Are you happy, Mommy?" I’m growing a little weary of peanut butter and jelly and of slicing apples without the peeling. I don’t remember the last time I sat down to start a meal and finished that same meal without sharing it with toddlers or having it spilled across my lap or wiped on my shirt sleeve. I know I am your mother and I am thrilled to have that role but I am not equally thrilled about my plate becoming the refuse plate for all food that you "don’t care for". It does make me a little queasy, but overall, I think I am feeling just fine.
There are other times, of course. Riley is comfortably reading a book on the sofa near us. Baby brother Bergen is napping peacefully in his bedroom. We’re playing a game of Connect Four - the toddler version. You know, where you just place the red and black checkers in the yellow thingy at any random order that pleases the capricious mind of a toddler. Yeah, that version. London and her younger sister Mosely are grinning at each other as they take their turns dropping the colored checkers. They wait on each other and even offer encouraging comments. When the square is filled I show them how to pull the blue lever that releases their carefully stored checkers into a pleasingly loud barrage of black and red mayhem. Mosely claps her hands and smiles at me. London cheers and laughs. I set the board back up and they happily settle down to start the process over again.
"Are you happy, Mommy?"
Yes, London, I am happy.