We’re painting nails today, my little girl and I. She’s chosen a different color for every nail, a hot pink for all of mine. I carefully paint each tiny nail, then hand over the brush. She immediately makes a mess, puts too much polish on at once. She runs the brush in the wrong direction, colors my whole fingertip hot pink. She misses spots, she bumps the bottle, she almost gets polish in her hair. I cringe, I flinch… I hope she doesn’t see me.
Today we’re making muffins, my little girl and I. She wants to be a chef someday, cook for more than just a few. We mash up the bananas, she leaves too many lumps. We measure out the sugar, she spills at least a cup. It’s time to crack the eggs, now shells and slime are everywhere. She mixes messily, smiles contently, jabbers away without realizing I can barely breathe from watching. I catch my breath, I look upward in frustration… I hope she doesn’t see me.
We’re working on a school project, my little girl and I. She chose the subject and did the research, delighted to learn more. We’re painting, cutting, writing, oh my, she knows to try her best. Her lines aren’t straight and her glue’s a mess, her spelling needs some work. She’s proud as punch of her painted tree, with white spots showing through. I purse my lips, I tilt my head… I hope she doesn’t see me.
We decorate our Christmas tree, my little girl and I. Each year we’re so excited, there’s magic in the air. She gasps as she unwraps each trinket, each ornament like gold. She handles them too roughly, these orbs I packed with care. She hangs them in the corner, all concentrated in one spot. She doesn’t fluff the branches, doesn’t stand back to check proportion. She wipes glitter all over, drops too much, and I have to leave the room. My eyes are squeezed shut, my hands are fists… I hope she doesn’t see me.
We’re getting ready to go out, my little girl and I. I’m putting on my makeup, she’s watching in pure awe. My concealer won’t conceal enough, my eyeliner isn’t even. My eyelashes aren’t as long as I’d like, I contour to look younger. I paint and blend and draw and mask, trying to look different. I grow frustrated with the process, grow sad at my appearance. I’m not happy with the way I look, not happy after application, either. I scrutinize, I criticize… I hope she doesn’t see me.
We’re growing up together, my little girl and I. We’re both new at all we do, she’s my only girl. We live together, play together, she’s my mini me. I struggle with anxiety, excellence my constant quest. Perfection is my prison, I want control of everything. I miss a lot of moments because I mentally amend them, focus on the chaos and the mess. I gasp instead of smile, criticize instead of praise. I’m insecure, impatient, in charge of raising her. I hope she’s strong, I hope she’s calm… and I hope she doesn’t see me.