About a week ago, our nanny sent me some videos of Edith swinging at a playground. This was odd for two reasons: first, I did not realize Edith was big enough to swing. It was one of those baby bucket swings, but still, I wouldn’t have thought to put her in one, because to me, she’s still a tiny, fragile newborn, and yet there she was, flying through the air and giggling and having a fantastic time. Secondly, there are no playgrounds with swingsets in this neighborhood, so I had no idea where they were.
Today, Edith and I went for a walk and I was determined to find this mystery playground, and I finally did — it’s in the neighborhood across the big road from here, a circular neighborhood with all these little avenues winding back between various houses that lead to a central hidden pocket park with a soccer pitch. The avenues are like spokes, and each of them has some sort of little parklet or park-type feature, and one was the park Edith had been going to.
There was nobody else in it, and we had a big time. Edith went on the swings, and we went down the slides, and we sat on the bed of the playground for a long time, which was made of wood chips, and Edith tried to put wood chips into her mouth, and I blocked her. Edith doesn’t get frustrated or scream if I stop her from doing something she wants to do (which is usually putting something foul in her mouth), but she doesn’t give up either — she just keeps mechanically attempting to do it despite my opposition until I make it actually impossible, at which point, she moves seamlessly on to trying to do something else I don’t want her to do. I think this is a really great sign. Perseverance and tenacity are great traits that I absolutely do not possess. When something is difficult or I am thwarted in a pursuit, I give up immediately. So there are all sorts of things I’ll never know how to do, like play the piano, or code, or be in a relationship.
But this doesn’t look like it’s going to be a problem for Edith. After trying and failing to get a woodchip into her mouth for probably well over 20 minutes, she climbed into my lap and gave me a huge hug. She’s been clingy lately because she’s teething, so I didn’t smell a rat until I heard sucking over my shoulder. She had palmed a wood chip somehow and was sucking it behind my back, having distracted me with insincere affection.
Later, a little girl came to the park with a very real-looking doll. The doll looked so real that at first, I thought it was a very small woman with her baby, and then I realized it was a little girl and got freaked out that she had a baby with her, and only then did I realize it was a doll. The little girl did all the same things with her doll that Edith and I had just done, and eventually we ended up side-by-side at the bucket swings, pushing our babies in companionable silence. Edith gaped openly (and frankly rudely) at them while I studied my phone because I am capable of feeling social anxiety even with a 9-year-old (or whatever she was).
Since having my daughter, I’ve had this strange feeling when people ask me about her, like I don’t actually have a baby and am faking. Particularly, there was this doctor’s appointment where the woman asked me if I had kids, and I was like, “No. Oh, yes! I have a daughter. I had her six months ago.” And I really felt like she was about to say, “No you don’t, honey,” and be right about it. I don’t know, I think that because I’m single, I’ve always sort of felt vaguely condescended to by other people like I’m a state of arrested development, and although this is mostly projection, it’s such a part of my response to the presence of other people that having a child myself (and therefore undeniably being An Official Adult now) is giving me this weird low-level identity crisis.
All of which is to say that as I pushed my actual baby next to this little girl pushing her fake baby, I had an uncanny sense that Edith is also a fake baby, or at least that there isn’t really any difference, that I am playing at having a baby, or maybe more playing at being a person. “What is your baby’s name?” I wanted to ask my new mom friend, but did not. It was a creepy feeling, but not altogether unpleasant.