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So dear Paloma, I know my voice messages can ramble but I need to talk. About our daughter. Maybe you’ve noticed on your weekends – she’s blooming, right? It’s amazing: Our once contrary offspring, the one who spread honey on my cat, she’s like newly hatched. Reflecting on gravity as she swings on the playground, slicing her cheese sandwiches into ever smaller triangles while asking about fractions. And now she speaks fluent Spanish – your language! All before first grade.
When you take your nose out of your paper-books, I bet you wonder how I “sparked her innate wisdom”. There’s a clue right there. Remember the advert? It was everywhere for a while, even beamed onto that skyscraper across the river, like a message from up high.
Rewind back into the drizzly depths of lockdown. A lorry with its trademark silver stripe parked outside my house, delivered a large child-size box: The Unit.
Our daughter unpacked it with a “ta da!” like those kids on the Youtube channel. It was unforgettable: One minute she was unfurling silver paper like a mad thing, the next she calmly climbed inside. Into the transparent egg, the tech womb – like she knew! She slipped on headphones, goggles. She sat there, a smile on her lips, a fish to water. Sorry, I know how my idioms irk you. I’m just excited, you know, on a roll.
How my heart ballooned that night as I tucked her and pink teddy into bed and she softly inquired about the Big Bang. Asked whether it is possible that spiders continue to evolve into something cute or maybe tasty? Feasibly possible, she concluded, putting her hands under a cheek like a pillow, turning away.
I’ll be frank with you Paloma, like the civil adults we are. Separated yes, but always putting our child first, like the mediator said. Rest assured our daughter has had zero adverse reactions. There’s the usual kicking when I take her out – she can’t help it: She loves it so! And yes, I do know about that fake news out there. Talk of Units malfunctioning. Overblown, the lot of it. I mean people hated the early novels, thought speedy cars would fry the brain.
Her wisdom has made her calmer. Bookish even – without your paper-books! There are no more fights about hair washing. No more shouting, full stop, apart from when I click it off.
Last week she packed all her toys into bags for deprived children, reeling off the Spanish conjunctive. It must feel special for you, her command of irregular verbs, Colombian folk songs. She finally speaks her mother tongue, the language you never quite managed to impart. But I’m not fishing for thanks – it’s three cheers for The Unit!
Admittedly the price was a stretch. But don’t worry, I’m not asking for you to pay your share. It sort of pays for itself, opening up five hours a day for me to do extra freelance work. There we sit, in the living room, her lips making silent shapes inside The Unit while I tap the keyboard, old school. Sure I miss playing toy holiday with her, but then she wows me again, talks about algebra, arteries, tells me: Papa, I know when the sun sets in Antarctica.
Last thing before I go: Please don’t ever forget to pack Daphne, her doll with the freckles and the device. They’re a real team. Inseparable. Our girl will hit the wall if she leaves her at yours. Or rather she’ll calmly articulate turbulent inner emotions – more her style these days.
But just remember how lucky we are. We can help her advance her gift! Together, but separately. On that note, it’s come to my attention – thanks to Daphne – that you’re only speaking to her in English these days. When you talk that is. In fact, you’re quiet a real lot, wasting input potential. The Unit’s orange dot even started flashing. Don’t feel too bad, you can still improve – at least it’s not red.
I know, in the end, we’ll pull it off, supporting her as she soars. And I mean it about no gratitude. The best thanks of all would be the reappearance of The Unit’s steady green light, and, if I may glance ahead, to that future moment when she’s an honourable professor of whatever, smiling at the TV interviewer, saying that she wants to thank me – maybe even thank us! – for making it all so wonderfully possible.