My daughter has a very peculiar fear that we talk about every now and again:
She is afraid that my husband and I are robots. Not helpful robots... but demon robots.
She reveals this fear at the most unpredictable times. “I will always hold your heart,” I told her with starry eyes, the other night, during bathtime. She straightened up and looked me dead in the eyes.
“I’m afraid that you’re robots and you’re gonna cut out my heart and keep it in your pocket and give my body to other people.”
Um. Come again?
“What??! What did you see on TV?! Daddy and I are NOT robots, honey. We’ve talked about this before.” (Dear Lord, what have we done wrong???)
“Well you MIGHT be robots,” she said. “How do I know?”
“Look!” I thrust a ripped cuticle in her face. “Robots don’t get boo-boos. See this? That’s a boo-boo.”
“But what else? What other type of evidence do you need?” (How many times do I have to go over this! Do I need to write a children’s book or something? Daddy and Mommy are Flesh and Blood, illustrations by Quentin Tarantino.)
“Okay, look! Robots can’t get wet. Lick my hand now. And then don’t EVER do that to another human being again.”
She lunged at my hand. “No wait that’s gross!” I pulled my hand away, but not before she slimed a little corner of palm. It was like feeding a goat at the petting zoo, but without the adorable payoff. “Okay then? You all convinced?”
She lifted a cup of bathwater. “Put your finger in this cup of water.” I did so.
“Now drink it!” she said.
“Ew! I will not drink your dirt and shampoo.” I left the room and returned with a peach-pear La Croix. Yum… crisp and refreshing. “See?”
“Some robots CAN get wet though,” she insisted. My mind flashed to the carwash. Damnit, she was right.
“Well robots can’t have babies. And I had you!”
“No you didn’t.”
I leaned forward, Godfather-style. ”I shoved you out of my vagina, don’t you dare tell ME I didn’t have you!”
(And that’s how my daughter learned how babies are born.)
She didn’t have much to say after that.
“Listen, sweetie,” I told her. “Sometimes I act like a robot when I’m running, running, running around all the time looking at my cell phone instead of reacting to your emotions, and I WISH that your daddy were a Roomba, but the difference between humans and robots is that robots -- they don’t have FEELINGS. And what I know for sure -- for SURE, sure -- is that daddy and I have a million, gadzillion feelings for you, for your brother, and for each other.” [Exasperation being one of them]. “So that’s how I know I’m not a robot. And you’re just gonna have to trust me on that one. You’re just gonna have to have faith!”
And then I put my cheek to her cheek and cradled the back of her wet neck -- my most cherished way of channeling love for her; skin to skin -- and then I left the room so I could shake my head and roll my eyes and text my flesh-and-blood husband: “W.T.F.”