My 6 year-old daughter is the ultimate Klingon. Not the wrinkle-headed humanoid kind from Star Trek, but the Velcro-monkey-arms draped around your neck kind. She is on me, for many, many waking hours of the day, like the proverbial white on rice.
Upon waking, my sweet child stumbles bleary-eyed from her bed across the short hallway to my room and climbs (sometimes directly across her sleeping father) into mine. She pulls back the sheet and inserts herself as adhesively as possible into my arms. If I’m facing away, she tugs at me until I roll over and drag her into an embrace. Once settled, she reaches a small hand up to hunt under my curls until she fastens onto my earlobe (right ear, free of post earring, preferred) and begins a rhythmic caress.
Throughout the day, she generally manages to stay on her own two sturdy feet, leaving me a pleasant sphere of personal space, but there are always intermittent bursts of cling. When she approaches to explain, in her wonderfully detailed stream of chatter, about some idea or experience she’s had—all wide eyes and dramatic gestures—she often ends up in my lap or sprawled halfway across my legs as she perches on the arm of the chair or couch I’m occupying. Throughout the lively monologue, she usually performs a number of grasps and proddings, as if I am some curious specimen she can only comprehend through her sense of touch. She squeezes at the flesh on my upper arms, leans in to examine my eyebrows (once announcing, “I know what those dots on your forehead are. That’s where you used to have hairs when you were an ape.”), runs her fingers over freckles and bug bites.
Now that we spend our days at the pool, she is apart from me, her pink plastic goggles with their alien-eyed blue lenses firmly squeezed onto her head as she marches her perfect, muscled little legs away to leap into the water, or practice her newly learned diving skills. But, inevitably, she returns again and again to ask me to join her—please, please, please!!!—in the pool. When I relent, wading out to a place where she can aim herself at me to demonstrate her cannonball, she surfaces laughing and immediately paddles over and attaches herself like the suction cup of a giant squid. Then we bob and swirl, drifting from one spot to another as the crowds of splashing teenagers and barely moving seniors buffet us from all sides, sealed together as if we awaited rescue.
At dinner, she sidles her chair up next to mine, closer and closer, sometimes reaching for my napkin, taking sips from my water glass. If I leave the table, she’ll sometimes climb into my chair, giggling mischievously, and ask if she can sit in my lap when I return.
But the true pièce de résistance is soon to come … bedtime. Oh, the marathon of fleshly interaction that entails! I must sit on her bed, never her brother’s (full pout, sometimes incorporating hiding in the closet, ensues in response to such trespass). I must not do the reading aloud (dad’s job, leaving my hands and attention free to focus on her). I must, instead, proceed through a series of back scratching, belly rubbing, hair smoothing motions, sometimes from a sitting position but, better still, while curled within her child-size bedframe, her warm limbs twined around mine, her sweetly scented head tucked under my chin, her long lashes drooping as she relaxes, slowly, deeply, drifting into sleep.
At last I am free, to slide a tingling arm out from under her neck, damp with contact, and press my lips to her firm little brow, her skin so warm and smooth. It will be hours before she reaches for me again and, I hope, at least a few more precious years before she becomes too tall, too mature, too separate to need me that way anymore.
This is an original Jersey Moms Blog post. Deanna Q, a New Jersey mom, is a freelance writer and mom of two who is learning, moment by moment, how the days go slow but the years much too fast.