Sweet pea, put on your coat, it’s cold out.”
“Cold? How cold?”
“It’s 28 degrees.”
My daughter looked at me, confused. I rolled my eyes at myself for thinking a young child would properly understand what 28 degrees meant in relation to anything else.
“Cold like—” I began to explain.
“Ice cream?” She suggested, tilting her head.
I laughed. “Yes, like ice cream,” I confirmed, zipping her coat.
I helped her put on her backpack and put her hand in mine while I walked her to school. My father had walked me every morning when I was young, and those walks were often the only times we spoke alone. I wanted my daughter to have the same opportunity, and boy did she take advantage.
“Is mommy cold like ice cream?” She asked.
I stopped walking, shocked, but trying not to show it. I put on a show of curiosity, in order to draw her out.
“What does that mean?”
“Grandma says mommy is cold, but she doesn’t feel cold to me.”
What my mother doesn’t understand could fill many libraries, but one of those libraries would be solely dedicated to my wife. The duration of our courtship was muddled with my mother’s tactical attempts to drive a wedge between us, thankfully they were all failures.
“Grandma doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” I replied, frustrated with my mother.
“Grandma can’t feel when things are hot or cold?”
“No, Grandma can feel those things, what she means is a little harder to explain,” I struggled. “Do you know how you feel when I give you hug after work? The warm feeling inside?”
“When a person is cold, sometimes they’re cold because they can’t feel fuzzy and warm inside, not outside.”
“So, mommy can’t feel warm inside?”
“She can. Mommy is just a little different from some people. What do you think? Is love warm or cold?”
“Warm,” She answered, kicking a puddle of slush.
“And mommy loves you, doesn’t she?”
I felt sick deep in my stomach. I picked up my girl so I could look at her while we walked.
“Why are you saying things like that?”
“You love me, daddy. You like to talk to me,” she explained. “Mommy doesn’t like talk to me, she only tells me to stop doing things. She doesn’t hug me goodnight like you do, she just says it.”
My daughter wasn’t saying things to be mean, I knew that because she was making a snowball in her hands while we spoke.
I didn’t know how to explain her mother to her. I felt like I was having this conversation with my parents all over again, defending my wife.
“Darling, does mommy love me?”
“Why do you think that?”
“She kisses you, sometimes.”
“Really?” I asked. “Or do I kiss her?”
“I don’t know,” she muttered, her attention waning.
“If I was cold like ice cream, what would you do?”
“I would bring you a blanket.”
“That’s right,” I said, smiling. “Sometimes, mommy feels cold inside. Not like ice cream. What do you think we should do?”
“Mmm,” she hummed, meaning she didn’t know.
“We should give her hugs and kisses, and we should hold her hand like this until she’s fuzzy inside again,” I told her, holding her hand tight. “It might take longer for her to feel warm than it does for us, so you’ll have to be patient.”
“That’s not very patient.”
She giggled. “So sometimes mommy is cold inside, but not all the time?”
“Like when ice cream melts?”
“Yes, like when ice cream melts.”