Thursday, June 12, 2008

The conventional phase

Here is a picture of the three bears Cora currently likes to sleep with. (Don't worry - no one has been kicked out of the crib! Cora is clearly more of an additive personality.) She decided early on that the pink bear is the mommy bear, the little cream-colored bear is the baby, and she was a little at a loss until she spotted the sweater-wearing bear in the music room and decided he would make a fine daddy to go with the other two.

While Cora is clearly most devoted at this stage in her life to the mommy-baby dyad (it is okay to go to bed without the daddy bear, but it is very much NOT OKAY to be without the other two together), she also likes to keep track of the daddies. She wants very much to know where they are, if they are not immediately visible.

And so we found ourselves a few weeks ago at a park with a little pond, complete with a mother duck and seven ducklings. "Baby duckies!" Cora shrieked with delight. We counted them. We talked about the mama duckie leading them around the pond. We talked about dibbling ("Oh! Where duckie go?!"). Then Cora asked the big question, the one I suspected was coming:

"Where daddy duckie?"
"Well, maybe there isn't one."
"Where daddy duckie?" (Sometimes Mama doesn't hear right the first time.)
"Some animals don't have daddies that stay with them."
"Where daddy duckie?" (Mama seems more dense than usual. Maybe more volume will help.)
"I don't know"
"Mama, where daddy duckie?" (Let her see you're serious!)
Sigh. "Maybe he's at work."
Knowing smile and nod of approval. "Teacher. Daddy duckie teacher."

She at least has it down pretty good now that Peter Rabbit's mama has gone to the store and his daddy is in a pie (though I doubt she really gets it). She doesn't ask about the cats' parents, because they aren't baby cats. Arvo is a daddy cat and Emily is a mommy cat. Anything male and not clearly a baby is a daddy. Anything female and not clearly a baby is a mommy. She seems to have an intuitive grasp of what puberty does to the reproductive possibilities.

But, I do wish she weren't quite so conventional. Granted, most of the families we see come in the variety she currently finds most predictable, but not all. We know some two-mommy families, we know some no-daddy families, we know some adoptive families, we know some two-person households that we really really hope might one day be allowed to get legally married and maybe even become two-daddy families, too (not even necessarily in that order - we're not picky when it comes to our friends' happiness).

I suppose this part of being two and trying to figure out how the world works. And that there is comfort in finding the configuration you know replicated other places. (I remember the consternation of our friends' oldest girl when she spent the night at our house, at about age six, and realized that in our house the woman does the cooking! In her house, it is almost always the daddy who cooks dinner.)

As Cora becomes more aware of all the families we know, and all the ways families come together, I hope that her question to kids she meets will be something more along the lines of "Who's in your family?"

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