I felt again like I could never get it right. Her arms were crossed defiantly. “You don’t listen to me!” she cried.
Adrenaline pumped loudly in my ears. Within I was fuming, all my spiritual tools for keeping calm thrown out the window. Defensive words flew out of my mouth. What was she talking about? All I did was listen to her! How could I not? She shouted so loudly!
She shook her head vehemently. “You don’t, mommy. You don’t…”
Sanity flooded my veins just then and with it, mercy. A voice in my head said: And what if she doesn’t know how to say what she feels? What if she doesn’t have the words? What if she’s afraid of disappointing you?
I dropped to the bare kitchen floor, crossed my legs and invited my nine year old baby to sit in my lap. She curled right into me and intuitively I rocked her back and forth, stroked her hair. “Shhhh….”
We sat and listened to each other’s breathing, allowing it to remind us of the love in our lungs.
We were at the beginning of another change: blending families. A mixture of excitement, happiness and sheer damn terror invaded the air.
The amount of adjusting that my two children have had to do in the past few years is considerable and all of it, out of their control. This is the edict of life, however and my role as mother is to help them through it with as much compassion as possible. Sometimes I feel I fail miserably and others, I seem to say what needs to be said, do what needs to be done with such breathless ease. It must come through me from a that divine place within. I knew I had to choose to act from that place now.
I had to do as she asked. I had to listen.
“Sometimes I just feel like I don’t get to make the choices and I wish I could,” she said into my chest. “But then sometimes I’m OK with everything and feel happy.”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“It’s like there are two voices in my head, but the mad one speaks first. I say stuff I don’t even mean sometimes and then I feel bad, but I can’t hear the good voice.”
I winced in recognition. I knew precisely what she meant. “Yes,” I whispered.
She sniffed and swallowed. “I don’t want to make you upset, mommy, but I’m not always happy about the changes at first.”
“Change is hard,” I said.
“Yeah, it’s hard,” she agreed. “But then the love shows up after I calm down and it’s ok.”
My heart folded in on itself with a mixture of pride, adoration and joy. Where did she come from? Where did those words come from? “Yes,” I whispered, pulling her tighter to me.
“I’m ok now, mommy,” she said reassuringly. “I’m sorry.”
I breathed deeply and gave thanks for the healing that I was witnessing. My guilt over moving on in life, my concern for how everything affected my children, my confusion about my own feelings and wishes and my final decision that I deserved to be happy- it was all, in a word, normal. I was a mother who knew her children. How many times had I gladly put my own needs aside to put them first? How often had I faced the seemingly impossible- armed with only my love for them- and come out the other side? I had done it before, I would do it again.
We can ride out the tantrums. We can weather the storms. Love is our anchor, forgiveness our lifeline, family our name. And because I was willing to listen, I remembered all this cradling my wise, beautiful daughter on the cold kitchen floor.