I come up for air and I start to notice.
I notice that her eyes don’t light up like they used to.
I notice that she’ll start to ask me to play with her and then interupts herself and says “never mind.”
I notice that her laugh sounds forced.
I notice a sadness emitting from her, when there once was such joy.
I take a deep breathe and I start to notice.
I notice my tone isn’t as gentle as I’d like it to be.
I notice more agitated sighs escaping my lips.
I notice how lost I feel in this parenting journey.
I slowly exhale and I start to notice.
I notice her. I notice me. I notice the disconnection.
And in this disconnection there is a deeper connection. I remember how it was when I became a big sister. I remember how I felt so lost and abandoned. I remember how the baby made everyone laugh and smile and all I could seem to do was annoy everyone.
I remember how much I needed my mom. I remember how very little I still was. Even though I was “older.”
And so I breathe. In and out. And I remember I can change this story.
She comes to me, scared, worried I will be mad or irritated. And she timidly asks if I could do bedtime, even though it’s not my night. And this time, I got it right and I say “Of course.” And we brush our teeth and I read her stories and sing her songs and hold her close.
She starts to ask me to play, but interrupts herself, again. And this time, I get it right and say “Let’s go play in your room.” And we play dolls, and laugh and start to connect.
I pray more of these moments happen. I pray for more patience and clarity and understanding. I pray for her eyes to light up again. I pray for her laughter to rise up from her belly and not be forced from her throat. I pray for me to become the mama I want to be.
I breathe in and out. I allow myself to soften. Knowing in this softness is wisdom, strength. I soften for her, remembering what it is like to be that little girl. Knowing the criticism does more harm than good. Knowing these stories that live in me about what proper girls do and don’t are only that: stories, not truths. And slowly, painstakingly slowly, I release them and let her be.
And in letting her be, I am allowing myself to be. In allowing her imperfection, I allow mine. As I wrap her in my arms, I wrap myself. And slowly, painstakingly slowly, we heal.
And I know in those moments, we’ll be okay. Both of us, each of us, will be okay.