Ears to Hearts

I just did a Heart Check with my girl (inspired by the beautiful tradition of Hands Free Mama Rachel Macy Stafford and her daughters). We do it every now and again, not really on any regular basis. We listen to each other’s heartbeat and then we tell each other what we think our hearts “sound” like. I listened to her little heart thud like a drum and told her that her heart sounded happy because she had had such a good day at school and had had such a great time running around in her red boots ever since she got home.
My baby girl leaned up and I cradled her head against my chest for her turn. She listened to my heart and then moved to lie down in her bed again. I asked what she thought.
She told me, “I think your heart is crying. I think because it is sad.”
I will not lie; I about lost it into a puddle of tears right there. I told my oh-so-wise girl that, yes, my heart is sad because a lot of my friends are sad right now, but that I am trying to love them as best I can. I asked her if she would pray for me, that God will give me strength and lots and lots of love to share.
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Just As Is.

Today, I received that call that I have honestly dreaded as the mommy of a three-year-old new to daycare.

“We’d like to try putting her on a behavior chart…”

My strong-willed little warrior-princess has been giving her teachers a bit of difficulty with her particular brand of personal strength. I am a teacher myself so I know that particular struggle and therefore absolutely gave my go-ahead for the behavior chart/incentive. I will admit, though, that my heart sank as I hung up the call, I lost my appetite for the quick after-work bite I had been having, and shed more than a few tears.

My husband was quick to reassure me that I hadn’t done anything wrong or failed in any way. I didn’t say anything in reply. The honest reason for that was because I was not in an emotional space to agree or admit he was right, even if I believed it (which I was trying desperately to) and that he was so (which he was). After all, I was her primary caretaker/educator/etc. for the first three-and-a-half years of her life. What if I had done something wrong? What if I had not taught her proper respect or kindness? What if I had indeed messed up somewhere with our girl? The rest of the trip from the corporation where we teach to the church where our girl attends preschool and daycare was spent in serious contemplation of just how I was going to approach this, approach my daughter. And I decided (and was later solidified and reassured in my decision by this post from Hands Free Mama Rachel Macy Stafford; thank you so much!).

As is. I wanted to take Elizabeth as is.

I would not scowl or shame her before her little friends and her teacher. I would not make her recoil or wilt because of the sternness in my voice or my expression. I would greet her with a smile and a wave and as big a hug as I could muster. Surely she had already been talked to by her teachers so I would not heap any more on her little three-year-old soul that day. Instead, I would heap grace on her head and give that which I so badly need myself day in and day out. I would hug her, tell her I missed her, and hold her hand as I walked her out of school. Together, we would drive home as a family and then I would tumble myself and her out of our house and into the backyard or the city park just beyond our property. I would run and play with my girl and tell her how much I love her laugh. I would color and draw with her, help her with her “homework” (practicing her letters, numbers, shapes, and colors), and watch her splash and “swim” in the tub at bath time.

I would and will celebrate my girl as she is, encourage her to have courage and be kind. I would leave today behind, inhabit the moments this evening, and let tomorrow wait on itself and all that it will bring. I would take my daughter, my little love, my warrior-princess, and celebrate her as she is. I want her to be (and to help her to be) good, kind, helpful, loving–all of this, yes, but I do not want to stomp her spirit out of her. Her sense of justice, her opinions, her thoughts, her imagination, her hopes, or her dreams, and I must trust her teachers to have the wisdom and the care to not do so either.

I love you, my daughter.

I love your laugh. I love how you love to make friends. I love your imagination. I love listening to you sing. I love listening to you play with your toys and make up stories while you color (just like I did). I love your creativity. I love your fire. I love how you clutch my arm to hold me close to you while you fall asleep.

I love you, my girl. Always and forever. Above all things I want you to be kind, encouraging, helpful, and good. But nothing, nothing can or will ever diminish the love I have for you. Just as you are. Just as is.

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When You Feel So Mad That You Wanna Roar…

This is our first year with a full-sized tree since Elizabeth was born and it has been impossible to keep her from pulling ornaments off the tree. Tonight she succeeded in that top-shelf fear of mine: she pulled the Christmas tree down. Thankfully, it did not land on top of her. I heard it fall, heard the clatter of ornaments on the floor, and hurried to the doorway between the kitchen and living room to see her across the room leaning against the couch and the tree facedown on the floor. I admit, I covered my hand with my mouth and struggled not to cry as I saw my tree sprawled on the floor, ornaments tumbled hither thither and yon around the living room.

I didn’t scream. I didn’t yell. I inhaled, counted to three, and exhaled as I entered the living room, asking firstly if she was OK and she said yes. I then set about righting the tree while she gathered the fallen ornaments into a little pile. I silently thanked God that I had had the means to buy a brand new set of shatterproof ornaments along with this tree. I was not also going to be vacuuming glass up out of the carpet for the next hour and then fretting for days to come that there would still be shards hidden, just waiting to embed themselves in our feet. So there was that in my favor. I slowly and as calmly as I could straightened out the bent branches and replaced the ornaments on the tree, though there was a small struggle with Bizzy over the last one, which she adamantly didn’t want to relinquish. I still think the tree looks a bit at sixes and sevens and I will most likely have my mother give it a once over and fix when she gets here.

But I am glad that I took that three-second pause. I wanted love to be my first response as often as possible and it most definitely was not my first response for most of today. Today was a rough day. We have all been sick for the better part of a week, Elizabeth since Thanksgiving night. So we are tired and worn and she and I got in each other’s way a lot today. Tomorrow, though, I will forgive myself and have the new beginning that tomorrow is.