Teach

individual

My child works hard.  Every day, she works as hard as she can to manage the world, all that’s in it, and her related reactions.  At times, this is difficult for her; she feels things differently than others do.  More heightened, more visceral.  Sometimes it’s hard for her to control, but she’s learning.

At the same time, she’s working hard to become HER.  She is learning what she likes and does not, what makes her comfortable and does not.  She’s trying to find her space in her own skin.  I see it in her choices and actions.  Short, edgy haircut.  Preference for blue clothes.  Aversion to frills and dresses and pink.  The request to be called by a name of her own choosing.  She is diligently working to be individual.

She is also in the first year of junior high where, at times, ‘individual’ is often seen as: ‘different’, ‘strange’, ‘outlier’.  And still she powers forward, making every effort to be who she so desperately wants to be.  This causes a lot of internal conflict; I see it on her face and in her emotions.  Working to be unique and true to herself, yet consistently hitting the wall of others’ expectations.  It’s tough to watch, as her mother; I guide her as compassionately as I can.  I also reinforce for her that whatever she chooses to do and whomever she chooses to be is HER choice.  But a mother’s opinion only goes so far when you’re wading through an ocean of peer judgment.

This year she’s garnered some new friends at school.  There have been some missteps, but for the most part it’s going well.  Yesterday, however, she told me something amazing.  Well, both not amazing, and amazing.

The not amazing part was that some of the kids at school were giving her a hard time.  Because of her chosen moniker and her style of hair/dress, it seems some of the comments are that she’s “trying to be a boy”, instead of a girl.  (This is compounded by the fact that last year, her core group of friends were all boys, and she’s still close with them.)  You can imagine that this is a hurtful calling out for someone who’s just trying to be true to herself.  I could see that this really bothered her when she shared it.

As adults, we know that hair, clothing style and friend choice don’t determine who you are in your core.  And, for the record, I wouldn’t care if she chose to be a boy, a girl, or a frog, so long as she felt comfortable and happy in her heart.  But kids her age aren’t often that seasoned, nor that open.  So ‘difference’ carries a lot of weight.

Now here is the amazing part…  When these comments were made, she was with one of her newer friends, also a girl.  This friend – this amazing young lady – looked at the naysayers and said (per my daughter’s retelling), “Well, I don’t care.  I like her anyway.”

That.  THAT.  You should have seen the look on my daughter’s face when she told me THAT.  It was like joy and relief and gratefulness mixed all into one and lit up her being for the world to see.  She told me that after her friend said that to the other kids, my daughter hugged her until she couldn’t breathe.  I did my best to give her space to share without stepping on her story.  But inside I was jumping and screaming with joy at the top of my own (silent) lungs, just to see her face in that moment.

These things are taught:  Acceptance.  Compassion.  Inclusion.  Yet they are so hard-won and fleeting, particularly in the maze of the junior high jungle.  But when they appear, they shine so brightly as to provide a beacon for those who are struggling.  They light the way.  Teach them to your children; make them part of their world.  In turn, they will teach others.

Our Village

Most people are familiar with the saying, “It takes a village…”  Well, it’s not untrue.  And this year, as my girl navigates her first year of Junior High, our village just expanded in a big way.

Instead of one main teacher all day, she now has seven.  Plus one behaviorist.  That’s EIGHT contacts.  This is a huge shift for my kiddo for whom change is sometimes hard.  Needless to say, this was also a big change for Mama who works hard to partner with the school in the best interests of my girl.  The prospect of now having eight checkpoints instead of one was daunting, to say the least.

I recently needed to check in with her instructors to gauge how things were going, and address a snack situation (she needs to eat periodically during the day).  So I emailed them all as a group, hoping I’d hear back from a few.

The response, however, was much more extensive.  I heard back from not just a few, but ALL of her teachers.  And not quick little replies, either.  Fairly thorough missives about how she’s been doing in class, and any issues they see popping up.  They were so genuine and detailed; it was absolutely heartening.  Many thanked me for reaching out, and asked for strategies to employ with her in some areas.

The conversation had not only begun; it was flowing openly, and WELCOMED.  This. Is. Huge.  I know that, on the whole, teachers advocate for their students.  But when you have a child with challenges, it’s not uncommon to worry that the extra work and communication needed from them may be seen as a burden.  To have such an involved response is a huge relief, and helps me be more secure in the fact that they have her best interests in mind as she learns with them.

I am ever grateful for this village of ours.

5 Hours To Go

There was pain.  My back strain, rearing its head all week, was taking a toll.  I had gone through as many sit for 5 minutes; stand for 10 minutes; sit again cycles as I could stand.  I considered leaving early to go home and rest it.

There was concern.  My daughter had not yet checked in from school; she should have been home by now.  I called; no answer.  I texted; no answer.  I tracked her phone location; near the school, not moving.  Is she walking?  Is she safe?  I left work early without a second thought.

There was traffic.  Gridlock, to be precise.  Of all days I needed to get home quickly (15 miles from work), no one was moving.  I avoided the freeway, but the back roads were just as packed.  I inched towards home, repeatedly calling her, hoping all was okay.

There was relief.  I finally heard from her; a huge accident on the freeway was the cause of all the congestion.  So much so that the school buses were delayed, and stuck as well.  She texted me a picture from the bus; she was bored, but safe.

There was discomfort.  Driving with my back was still hard.  1+ hours in the car on the way home didn’t help.  No position was good.  I redirected my attention as best as I could; the radio only does so much.

There was anger.  How had the school not bothered to inform the parents about the bus issue?!?  No texts, no calls.  Unacceptable.  I resolved to call them first thing in the morning.

There was fatigue.  Home, finally.  All I wanted was to lie down and rest my back; no bending, no working.  Just resting.

There was annoyance.  My little bit of a dog had relieved herself in the foyer, twice.  I carefully stepped over it and put both dogs outside until I could contain the mess.  Not her fault, exactly, we were home much later than she probably expected us.  Finally clean; bending was hard.

There was contentment.  My daughter walked in the door, and immediately came over and hugged me tight, saying she was so glad to see me, and be off that bus.  And boy, did she need to use the bathroom.

There was bellowing.  Her bathroom smelled like sewer.  She had apparently clogged the toilet just before leaving this morning, and all the water had finally drained out and let some of the gas back through.  I pulled out the rubber gloves and plunger, and luckily it cleared quickly.  More bending, though.

There was hunger.  For both of us.  I started dinner on the stove and asked her to watch it while she did her project for school.

There was laundry.  We found a single flea on one dog that morning; I had already applied flea medicine, and started laundering the bedding.  Only 4 loads to go before bed; grief.  Lots of carrying to and fro.

There was water.  Washing both dogs to ensure flea-free before bedtime.  They both hate the water; after the baths, I kind of did too.  Unfortunately, there was also lots of bending.

There was fuzz.  Purple fuzz; tons of it.  Apparently I had washed the new purple luxe blanket with the dog towels, and it shed.  Everywhere.  There was now fuzz on the dogs, on me, on the floor, in the tub.  More to clean; more bending.

There was burning.  Or at least the smell of it.  She had become so engrossed in her project that she forgot about the stove.  Fortunately only a little caramelized burning, but the rest of the food was spared.  Finally we ate; it was delicious.

There were dishes.  Out with the clean, in with the dirty.  More bending; how much more bending?

There was trash.  Trash night, to be exact.  Out to the cans, cans to the street.  Gratefully, she helped with this one.

There was pride.  Her project was finished, and was fantastic.  I continue to be amazed by her creative mind and abilities.

There was anxiety.  Any fleas on people?  The need to take a last minute shower to make sure she was clear.  We were now edging past bedtime.  She was tired, and so was I.

There was embarrassment.  The one place I had not checked was my email.  The school had sent notification; two, in fact.  Accident on the freeway.  Buses delayed.  Sharing with parents so they knew.  Next time I’ll remember to check there.

There was stalling.  Shower done, but not teeth, not clothes for tomorrow.  Dragging her feet, extending the day.  Finally she got into bed.

There was irritation.  You made my bed wrong!  I had made it to help expedite the night, but forgotten that the sheet has to be even on both sides.  OCD tendencies rear their head, once again.  She re-made the bed, then apologized for being grumpy.  I understood; I was pretty grumpy by then, myself.

There was panic.  What if the flea comes back?  What if the flea was on her?  What if it went in her nose?  What if it bit her while she slept?  Inspecting and re-inspecting the bed, pillows, stuffed bunny, no fleas.  Are you SURE???  Yes; no fleas.  Bug anxieties are hard to overcome, once they find their way into your head.  We checked once more just to be certain.

There was love.  Every night, hugs and kisses with my girl before bed.  No matter the day, the irritations, the trials or celebrations, there is love.  She drifted off feeling secure and cared for.

There was quiet.  Finally, quiet; and rest.  No more chaos.  And tomorrow, we get to do it all again.  Hopefully without all the bending.

Oh, My Girl

Girl Heart

Oh, my sweet, sweet girl.  I’m lying in bed at 5:28 pretending to still be asleep, though I was awakened by the beeping of her alarm clock at 5AM sharp.

It’s been a rough tween-attitude-filled few weeks at our house. Yesterday we had a heart to heart about humans, our limits, and how to help.  More specifically, Mama’s limits (both physically and emotionally) and how she could help more. How as a family, we don’t expect one person to manage everything alone. We help. We share the responsibilities. We love.

During our chat, Mama broke down a little. I used to think this was unforgivable, to show my child my limits. But some time ago I realized that by (carefully and safely) showing her and talking to her about the fact that I am not super-human, that I have bad days too, that I also need help, I am teaching her something valuable. I am letting her know that SHE doesn’t have to be perfect either. That it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to break every once in a while. Carrying the world and keeping it all inside is a damaging habit to fall into.

And I think, for at least a small moment, she heard me. Because sometime last night, completely un-prompted,  she set her own alarm for 5AM. This amazing girl who plays hard all day and sleeps like the dead, who I have to pry out of bed every morning and cajole and badger to get out of the house (usually late). I can hear her in the other rooms getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, getting her lunch packed, starting breakfast (mine, I believe). Some time yesterday, she made the choice to help. To be present. To give of herself and her own precious time.

At 11-yrs-old, this is not a small thing. For a kiddo with behavior challenges, it’s kind of a game-changer. It’s huge. Almost as huge as her beautiful heart.  Oh, my lovely amazing girl.

Quiet

QuietQuiet.  It is a new experience, here in this small little house.  Quiet.  No singing, no chatter, no laughter or complaints or “mom!” from across the hall.  Just quiet.

These last three weeks are the longest we’ve ever been apart.  Coming up on 11 years, and I’ve been present for almost every single day.  And now, quiet.

Divorce is hard.  It’s messy, draining, humbling, shameful, liberating, and upending all at once.  We’ve done the hard work; striving for amicability.  Dividing pennies, possessions, and plans.  Laying out a road map for where we are hoping to get in the future, though we now have so much less clarity on how to get there.

Dismantling a life is difficult enough; but how do you share a being?  Parse out the moments you cling to while calendaring your time together and apart?  Watching the days spread into weeks, into months.  Knowing you should be savoring the uniqueness of space, but unable to fill the empty shadow with anything but the memory of a shimmering sound.

It’s consistently baffling.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

The quiet.

You Can’t Go Home Again

I almost missed it completely.  It looked so different, so foreign.  The whole block did, really; smaller in scale, stilted.  Hard to put a finger on the reason; maybe it was the 8-10 years since I’d been back.  But it seemed more than that; a heavier difference.  Like a storm cloud blocking the sun.

The house, in particular, was hard to recognize.  I had to look several times – squint, even – to really make sure it was ours.  The street and number were the same, but so little resembled our old house it was challenging to connect the memory.  I sat in front of it in my car for a good several minutes; taking it in, still stunned.  I was urged to move on and keep driving, for fear that someone would be concerned about the strange woman staring at their home; though I did circle back two more times to view it.  My mother had asked me to take a picture for her, but I couldn’t bring myself to photograph the building that now stood.  “I won’t show them this,” I thought.  They didn’t need to view the shell of the house that we once knew.

They didn’t need to see, for instance, that the color – once a bright and cheerful yellow – is now a faded and untended blue.  That the tree from the front yard that shaded us all those hot summer days with its giant limbs and wafting leaves is now just a stump with a tin bucket covering the remnants; our very own Giving Tree come to pass.  That the Japanese maple on the corner, which my father loved so much he’s planted a Doppelgänger in every house he’s lived in since (as has his daughter), no longer exists either.  That the garage windows have been boarded up; callously shouting at passers-by to keep their distance.  That the bushes aside the house that were once used for secret forts are so overgrown and unruly, they practically reach the edge of the street.  That the original fence – the strong guardian of the back yard that kept out the unwanted while supporting the weight of cats and squirrels and wild-eyed teens climbing over to seek summer freedom – still stands, but is now dilapidated and riddled with jagged boards too easy to breach.  It does not look loved, nor cared for, nor lived in.  It looks lost and forlorn; fallen victim to a harsher time.

Odd though, how much easier the vast difference in appearance makes it, for me.  The memories of my house, as I knew it, now remain pristine.  They won’t be marred by small comparisons of years of changes gone by.  I don’t have to see my beloved home slowly slip away; it’s simply vanished into my memory and been preserved there indefinitely.  I can just close my eyes and go home whenever I like; nary a storm cloud in sight.

Chess

Chess

“Would you like to play chess?”, she asked, holding out the wooden set she acquired from her father not too long ago.

As she looked up at me, waiting expectantly for my answer, it all flashed so quickly through my mind…

In reality, I did not.  I’d had an exhausting day.  Full of meetings, spreadsheets, calculations, problems, solutions, more meetings, fire-drills, moving targets, and on, and on, and on.  My brain was fully and completely worn out.  The last thing I wanted was to try and tax it further with a game of logic and skill.  What’s more, I don’t know how to play chess; and truth be told, I don’t have a desire to learn.  Never did.  And now was certainly no different.

But tonight, she was calm.  Happy.  Focused.  She was smiling, and excited about sharing her knowledge with me and teaching me something new.  Who was I to squelch such wide-eyed wonder?  No one, that’s who.  I am a Mother.  A tired, worn-out, day-weary one, but a Mother none the less.  And Mothers always have time, do we not?  Certainly for things like this.

So I did the only thing I could.  I looked her right in the eye, and gave her my answer:  “I would love to.”  Her broad, glittering grin was all the reward I needed.

If Only

If OnlyIt started with the birthday gift from my Mother and Stepfather.  A Spiderman backpack complete with flashing lights, and a Spiderman lunchbox, with a faux-ribbed “six-pack” etched into the design.  They were, to be fair, pretty cool.  But they were a bit young.  My daughter decided on-the-spot to exchange them for something a little more befitting her 9-year-old self, which was easy enough to do since my Mother had kindly enclosed the receipt as well.  We did so that same weekend, getting a really smart looking gray-patterned back pack with lots of neat pockets and zippers.  Only when I sent the picture to my Mother so she could see what the “new” gift was, the text I received back was, “That is a big girl backpack!”, as if she were surprised by it.  Odd.

I wrote it off as quirky, but forgot about it amongst the myriad of other things I pushed aside, as this week was the start of the school year and crazy busy.  That is, until we received the birthday box from my Father and Stepmother, as well.  My daughter was opening it in the living room as I was in the kitchen with breakfast and other morning busyness.  All of a sudden I hear an annoyed cry of, “Minnie Mouse, seriously??”  I went in to see the offending material, only to find a box filled with curly ribbon, little Minnie Mouse party glasses, tiny Minnie Mouse girl rings, and a variety of other small pink bracelets and candy.  It was a birthday box lovingly prepared for a granddaughter; only, it was not for my girl.  Almost nothing in there was remotely HER in any way, with the exception of the Target gift card (which had been my suggestion and that she did, in fact, love).

As I stood there looking at her scowling at the items in the box (mainly because they were pink – a complete offense nowadays to little miss tomboy – and they were geared towards a child more along the age of, say five), it hit me.  Like a tidal wave of sorrow, it hit. That’s how they see her, isn’t it?  My family still sees her as this small little creature; a grandbaby not quite yet grown.  And how else could they see her?  I am anchored across the country from them, in a world so foreign.  And I have done little to help them know her; I mean really know her.  Connect with her in a way that makes up for all that ugly geographic distance.  The fault, I feel, is entirely mine.

You see, she has long outgrown the Minnie Mouse trappings and blinky-lighted backpacks of her younger years.  Today’s interests are more along the lines of boy-styled roller blades and tween-approved backpacks.  Sure, she is greatly enamored with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spiderman, but not the gimmicky ones of the younger crowd; she wants the older, cool-styled ones of the Marvel-type universe.  The ones that have explosions in their movies, and superpowers that stealth through the back door.  If only you could hear the excitement in her voice as she talks about the latest character she and her friends are arguing about; who could outwit who, which one they would rather be.  You would fall in love with the glimmer in her eye and the loud full laugh from her chest.

This girl has moved far beyond pink and frills and bows.  She is now fully ensconced in all things blue; boy colors and styles are her preference and boys, in general, are her playmates.  She has a couple of go-to best girlfriends; she hasn’t abandoned them completely.  But she prefers the boys, I think, because of a lack of drama; and she coolly tries to pattern herself like them (especially when she needs a self-confidence booster).  If only you could see her run and laugh as she plays dodge-ball with the boys after school; keeping up with the best of them, just one of the pack.  You would be amazed at her tenacity, and proud of her spirit.

Far and away are activities akin to tea parties and dress-up (although a good spa-day at home will sometimes tempt her, though she’s hard-pressed to admit it).  Now long days are filled with roller skating or scooter-ing down the block, dog in tow as her ponytail flies behind her.  That, or climbing trees, or splitting rocks.  Did you know that she loves to hammer on and split rocks open just to see what’s inside?  It’s one of her favorites.  If only you could be here to kneel down next to her and investigate the different colors she finds.  You would be awed by her inquisitiveness, and could marvel at them together.

And she’s grown; oh, how she’s grown.  No longer does she have the slightly stubby fingers or legs of a toddler or child.  She is long, and lean.  She reminds me of a colt; all muscle and leg and speed and sinew.  She comes all the way up to my collarbone now, she’s so tall.  I sometimes steal opportunities just to stare at her when she’s unaware; when she’s all serious and concentrating, or when she’s just calm and serene.  The “little girl-ness” of her is almost completely gone; she’s really starting to take on her newer, more mature frame in face and body.  It’s really a sight to behold; it breaks my heart and fills me with joy all at once; a feeling I know you would recognize.  If only we could gaze at her together, then look at each other; we would not need words to understand that you have for so long felt what I now know.

But, you see, there weren’t supposed to be all these if only‘s.  Long ago, when I imagined my future and my family and my children, I always pictured you near.  Weaving you in and out of our lives; holding you close for all the milestones and important events and even all the little mundane ones, too.  You were supposed to know all of this, already.  You were supposed to have held her close, at every turn, in every year; feeling the differences in all her growing selves, knowing all the changing versions of her.  But decision and circumstance have kept me so far away for so very long, and like a thief I have stolen all of this from you.  From her.  From me.  And the reality is that you don’t know.  And you have missed so much.  If only I could change that; if only I were home.

But I can’t; and I’m not.  Not yet, anyway.  Though I still hope to be, someday.  But until then, I will try to do better.  For you, and for her, and for me.  I will try to make sure that you know her more; and often.  So that our world is less distanced; so that we have less if only‘s.

One Tommorow At A Time

Blue-streaked beauty

Blue-streaked beauty

It was an interesting juxtaposition. My 8-year-old child, sitting in the salon chair waiting for her hair cut, as the other girl walked by. She was probably around twenty-one; average height; athletic – you could see how muscular her thighs were through her jeans. She was wearing a tank top, casual sweater, and purse slung across her relaxed torso. She had just chopped a good 6-8 inches off her already long brown hair, and was obviously happy with her fresh new look – almost emboldened by it; you could see it in her posture.

As I watched her carry her new self out the salon door, I found myself longing for all of those qualities – not for me, but for my daughter. Hoping for that bold independence for her; that she gets there, one day. And realizing that there is a part of me that is terrified to admit, in some small way, that I worry “what if she doesn’t?”

My headstrong, confident girl is not always present lately. That day, when she would normally have been so insistent on exactly what kind of cut/color streaks she wants at the hair salon, she instead couldn’t focus on a choice. Indecision is prevalent, and comes with the behavior struggles we have been managing.

The stylist and I eventually helped her land on a blue-streaked bob, but it took a while. She was really happy when it was finished, and commented “I can show my friends tomorrow at school!” I remember thinking that I was glad her new hair would help give her a good tomorrow.

We will get there – she will get there – I know it in my heart. I just don’t yet know what that road will look like. And sometimes it is difficult to keep all my momma worries and hopes at bay while we take it one step at a time.

Parents want so much for our children – we would give them the world if we could, and we often try. But this journey has been a good lesson that sometimes, trying to give them the world puts weight on their shoulders that is simply not theirs to carry. Sometimes, it’s enough just to give them tomorrow. A good tomorrow is a gift in and of itself.

One tomorrow at a time.

In Reverence to Change

It’s an over-used adage: ‘Change is a good thing‘. It’s heard and read so often, sometimes, that you breeze by it without even registering it. The same thing can happen when you’ve been working towards a change for a long time; the results can fail to register as well. But occasionally something will happen so big and bold, it reminds you just how good change can be. And when you also realize that it’s your own blood and sweat and sacrifice that’s caused it, the reward is that much bigger…

A common change that we all try to make is to be ‘better parents than our own’, right? Well, the same is true for me, but in specific and measurable ways. I have, for the better part of twelve years now, been actively working on changing my own DNA when it comes to parenting. Reason being, I was raised by an impatient yeller (excessively so). Don’t get me wrong; this impatient yeller loved me (and still does) more than anyone else on the planet, and I have never doubted that for a second of my life. But yelling also came with the territory. We’re Irish: it’s in the blood – my Dad got angry and yelled; his Dad got angry and yelled; most of my Dad’s family gets angry and yells. We all do it. It doesn’t make it okay, but it’s how I learned to parent. And when I became a step-parent twelve years ago, it’s what I did, too; until I made the decision I was going to learn how NOT to.

Fast forward to now: my step-sons are grown and out of the house, and I have added an 8-year-old daughter to the mix. My ‘impatient yelling’ self is much more reigned in. She still pops out occasionally, but I am significantly more aware and in control of her; and most of the time, I can actively make a better choice regarding her reactions. Today, however, I was hit smack in the face with the distinction of choosing to make an effort to improve a behavior, and choosing to be present in the moment that you do it. It may seem like an odd insight; but I don’t think I have ever truly experienced the difference between the two – and I mean really FELT it – until today.

My daughter is amazing; healthy, brilliant, thriving. But she is also, at times, emotionally challenging, and has some things in that area we have to work on with her. This morning happened to be one of those times. I was clued-in when my husband, on his way out the door, popped into the bathroom with a desperate look on his face and said (after checking on our daughter’s ‘getting out of bed’ progress), “I’m sorry, she’s on the floor with her hands on her face saying she wants Momma…”. I took a few moments before I responded to her (I knew I would need them; I knew how this would go). And in those moments I was reminded of some advice I’ve been reading from an amazing blogger (Hands Free Mama) about being present – really living in the moment – and I made a choice. I decided then and there that, today, we would be late – late for school, late for work, late for everything – and that it would be okay. There was nothing monumental we would miss; nothing tragic would happen because of our lateness. And I decided to be okay with that, and let all the stress of rushing to get out the door go along with it. I stopped what I was doing to be there for my daughter because she needed me, and the moment needed me and, quite frankly, we weren’t getting out of that house if I didn’t. Once I was fully committed to my decision I took a couple of deep breaths, prepared myself for the long-haul, and headed upstairs.

As I entered her room I could hear her crying; she was already hiding in the closet. I walked over and knelt down in front of her and softly said, “You know what I noticed just now?” She shook her head. “I noticed that with all my rushing to get out of the house this morning, I haven’t taken the time to ask you if you need anything from me today, so I thought I would. So, is there anything you need, or that I can help you with this morning? I’m all yours.” At that she turned her big teary blue eyes to me and started lamenting about not being able to decide what to wear. From there, we moved into fears about going to school, then anxiety about cleaning her closet. None of it was really logical, but emotions rarely are. She then fixated on cleaning the closet floor, and I knew better than to try and avert her from it until she was done (she sometimes gets into modes like these when extremely overly-emotional or anxious). So I just settled in, calmly talked to her, and let her whirl until I found the opening to re-direct. I eventually got her focused on breakfast and getting dressed and moving a little farther forward, but not by pushing; more by letting her flow the way she needed to. We eventually wound back up in the bathroom (finally clothed and fed) with me finishing up my routine, and her brushing her teeth. She was keeping a close proximity to me even though she was done, and was sitting on the edge of the bathtub. I found myself, in that moment, making another choice. I turned to her and said, “Well, we’re almost ready to go, but you know there’s one other thing I have to do today first. I don’t know about you, but I could really use a big hug.” I then knelt down in front of her again (being on her level really helps out), which made her grin because at 8-years-old, she’s actually taller than I am when I’m kneeling. She just kind of gazed at me for a few minutes, gently playing with my hair, then she giggled, saying, “You have funny gray hairs on the top of your head, Momma”, with a big grin on her face. Then she leaned in for a big hug; long enough that I could still feel her with me even after she bounded out of the bathroom to go find her shoes.

Eventually we got out of the house (really late), got her to school (even later), and I got to work (later still). And I was right; nothing monumentally bad happened. In fact, probably the opposite. Because I took the time to get her in a better state of mind, she actually had the chance at a half-way decent day, vs. me forcing her out of the house in a panic-stricken state which would have ensured her day was a bust (and mine, as well). Lateness isn’t fatal. Stress and (seeming) failure and tears and grief are far greater foes. We would do well to remember that more often. As I drove to work I felt comfort in the knowledge that I had made good choices for the morning, lateness or not.

However, it wasn’t until the drive home that evening that the impact of my decisions really hit me. As I was on my way to pick my daughter up, I was wondering (for the millionth time) how her day had actually gone; what kind of mood she would be in when I got to her. I was replaying the morning’s happenings in my head. And it was then that I had a revelation; my memories of the events weren’t what I expected. Normally I would focus on my stress, her anxiety, the upset tears, my efforts to stay calm, etc. They would all be jumbled together in one big frustrating mess. But this time, the memories were clear and crisp, not to mention surprising. I remembered the feel of the carpet on my legs as I knelt down in front of her closet; the color of her blue eyes and messy blond hair as she looked up at me; the warmth of her hand as she took mine to go down the stairs; the sound of her voice giggling and feel of her hands on my ‘funny gray hair’ as I sat below her in the bathroom; the weight of her as she leaned into me for that huge, long hug. That’s what I remember about this morning. All those little moments, like snapshots in my head and heart. They are clear and sparkling in my mind because I was there; I was truly present for each of those moments today. And that’s when it hit me. I didn’t just choose not to be angry today; I CHOSE to be PRESENT.

I did this. I made this happen. No one but me. By consciously making a choice to be present, to give myself to the situation, to be different for my daughter and for myself, I created these moments today. I made this change. It’s several hours past when it first hit me and I’m still floored by the vastness of it. I’ve been working so hard at controlling the anger/yelling piece for so long, it astounds me that today I surpassed that in a way I didn’t even realize I was striving for. Just by choosing to BE IN THE MOMENT changed the whole game. Changed my whole memory of the event. It’s staggering, really, the impact of this specific change.

And it’s such, such a good thing.