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Rachael Clarke Headshot

Connecting to My Daughter's World

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My daughter loves to tell stories, to share them through her words and budding art. She connects what she knows of the world, lets the knowledge seep into her everyday thoughts and musings, her growing imagination. Everything is a part of a beautiful web, interconnected and woven with threads of innocence and wonder. Airplanes are "up up high, like the stars." There are flowers in the bare trees, horses running through the grass. There is always a dog outside, birds in the sky. When the power is out, the stars shine bright.

She shared one of my favorite stories about a month ago. She awoke at 4:45 a.m., cried for me as icy snow lay quiet in the January morning. She stood in her crib pouting, eyes half closed, hair mussed.

"Mama, in dare!" She pointed toward our bedroom with a determined finger. It was a common plea in the early hours, a request I was often too tired (and secretly didn't want) to refuse. I tucked us into bed, then awoke two hours later to tiny hands on my face.

"Mommy?" She was staring at me intently. "Fish. They swim. Outside." I mirrored her expression.

"There are fish swimming outside?"

"Yeah, in the water."

"You mean in the snow?"

"Yeah!"

We'd read a poem about fish the night before (translated from Spanish):

Little fish move in the water, swim, swim, swim.

Fly, fly, fly.

Little ones, little ones.

Fly, fly, fly.

Swim, swim, swim.

She told me there was a dog going to the bathroom outside, too. There wasn't, but I appreciated the sentiment.

That afternoon she used our fridge as an easel, chose crayons thoughtfully, covered her paper in a mass of scribbles and rainbow stickers. It looked like the sky was snowing rainbows.

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To look at it was to look into her world, her imagination not yet compromised, not yet following prescribed patterns. I would love for the sky to snow rainbows, to look up and see her waxy, sprawling lines.

There's a finger painting I have of hers that slows my breath, connects with me on the deepest level. It's a watercolor she created at school with her hands dipped in yellow paint, smeared onto paper to form an image with outstretched wings. She named it "Fly."

I wrote a poem in college that talks about dipping my hands into paint like slender brushes, smearing them across canvases. I have a photo of myself with arms outstretched, which she has never seen.

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She often tells me that she has an "ouchie" on her neck, because I have a scar on mine. She will name people whom she wants to hug, will tell me I should see a particular friend, that I need an umbrella when I didn't realize there'd be rain. I have never met a child so connected to her world, and to mine. She is beyond her years, shows me wonderful ways of seeing and understanding, makes connections both intuitive and lovely.

Every day I await more stories, place blank paper on the fridge, crayons and stickers at her side. I wonder sometimes who finds more joy in this process. I do know she loves to share it.

Pablo Picasso once said that "Every child is an artist." She has made me a child again.