M tends to make quite an entrance in the morning. We usually hear her before we see her, and we brace ourselves for the tragedy that has somehow ensued in between the time her clock turned green and the short walk across the hall into our room. Many times she is in tears before 7:00am over a hangnail (we can cut it), too many stuffed animals (why don’t you carry less?), the light being off (we always turn the light off after you go to sleep), or for a variety of other very tender but irrational reasons.
One morning this week she stumbled into our room with sleepy eyes and crazy hair so innocent in her rainbow pajamas that are too small but that she can’t bear to put away. We greeted her as we always do with love, attention, hugs, and kisses and asked her what she dreamed about. She was in the process of getting dressed when it started: fussing and crying about the color of her bow. “Fine.” I said. “Just go to your room (quietly) and choose a different one.” For some reason things escalated on that quick trip across the hall and M was soon crying (loudly) in her bathroom. This took things to a whole new level because she was crying into the shared wall of her brother’s room who happened to still be sleeping. “Molly, use your calm words (our standard phrase). Tell me what you need.” I wish I could say the response was crickets, but it instead got louder and louder. My response changed. I was frustrated, and by the way, it was still a few minutes shy of 7:00! “STOP.” I said. “It is not okay to stand here and cry like this. This is NOT how we talk to each other!” We were back across the hall in our room by this point, and I was desperate to reach her, to teach her that starting the day with all this fussing, crying, and whining wasn’t acceptable.
But that’s when she reached across the divide that separates parents and children, and taught me a lesson I will never ever forget.
“I’m trying to calm my body down,” she said through her tears.
“But my body keeps wanting to cry.”
Have you ever felt like someone shattered your heart into a thousand pieces? That’s how my heart felt in that moment. I didn’t say another word, and instead I picked her up and held her with tears streaming down my face.
You see, M is SO capable, SO independent, SO aware, SO intelligent, and SO responsible. I often find myself frustrated by the emotional pendulum swings of this precious child, because it seems like there could be a little bit more control. However, in that moment, she assured me with her whole heart that she was trying her best, and my job was to assure her that her best was good enough. How humbling that I thought I could teach her, when it was her lesson which spoke directly to my soul. She’s trying. I’m trying. And for today, that’s good enough.