Aaron and I joke that our greatest wish for Clara is that she be flat-chested at least until age 28 and ever-so-slightly overweight in junior high. Or, as Yeats prayed for his own daughter:
May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.
Yeats also says of Helen of Troy: “Helen being chosen found life flat and dull.” I’m sure the face that launched a thousand ships was perilously beautiful, but it could also be that Helen’s parents didn’t tell her “no” enough. Clara started crawling and not two minutes later, Clara started wanting. Even when she’s still, I think I can see her mind crawling around the room: “I want to chew on that, and I want to bang that on the side of the fridge, and later, I want to pour that on my head.” She giggles when she thinks she’s been caught. She sticks her little red tongue out when winding up to make a four-legged dash across the living room. She screams when we take away the adult fork.
I must say, it does not come naturally to tell one’s child “no.” It’s much easier to replace the fork with a spoon and pretend that the things she wants but cannot have, in fact, do not exist. Still, when she aims to yank a tuft of hair from Delilah’s rump, I catch her eyes and say the word. For that moment, she stops and moves on. I want to giggle like I’ve been caught trying to be a parent. Always, it feels like practice.
Yeat’s “A Prayer for my Daughter”: