She blows me away sometimes, our daughter.
Today, she was busy in the playroom and then her bedroom for quite some time, and kept instructing me not to come in. She came out near dinner time and said, “You won’t believe what I did. It’s something we don’t talk about much and we don’t organize it very often….” I looked at her and guessed, “Oh my gosh did you organize the bookshelves?” And she HAD.
It probably took that girl 45 minutes, but she made both bookshelves so orderly and organized–and she was so proud of herself. She said, “I kept smiling the whole time Mom, I was thinking, ‘Mom’s gonna go crazy when she sees how good this looks!'” She told me that she was just tired of not being able to see all of the books and find the right ones, so she fixed it. (I have urged them countless times to use shelf markers (which they have) like at their library at school, to put books back where they found them… to no avail.)
I told her I was extremely proud of her maturity. She asked what “maturity” was and I said, “It’s when you do the right thing, for no other reason than it’s the right thing–even when it’s hard to do. It’s when you fix a problem, because you can.”
She beamed all evening.
Later tonight, her brother woke from an awkwardly timed nap–about 7:45 pm, also known as bedtime. His sister was reading in their shared room, settling down for the evening. He came out and had three bowls of cereal for dinner. We chatted, and I could see our daughter from the dining room table, as their room is just steps away. I smiled at her, made silly faces. At one point I noticed she had left her bed. I called to her and asked her to get back into bed. Her brother finally turned in, lights out for both.
About 30 minutes later, she came out into the living room, where my husband and I were watching a football game. She was sobbing.
She climbed into my lap.
“Mommy, I have something to tell you,” sobbing all the way through.
I assured her she could tell me anything, asked her what the problem was.
“When [my brother] was eating… ” At this point she was sounding a lot like Laura Petrie when she would cry to her husband Rob.
I asked her to take a deep breath and tell me what she needed to say.
“I felt so alone.”
She cried and cried as I apologized for not understanding that she felt alone, for not asking her to come sit at the table with us, for just thinking she wanted to read and settle in for the night. I told her I was so sorry to hurt her feelings, that I didn’t mean to do it, but I was so glad to know that I did, so that I would pay more attention in the future. That I was so happy that she came and told me how she felt, because I knew how hard that was to do. I told her that she was being so mature, twice in one day, I could barely believe it, it was so wonderful.
She started smiling as she stared into my face.
“Why are you smiling? Do I have antlers growing out of my nose?”
“No, I’m smiling because your eyes look Iike they’re going to cry.”
She knew she’d been understood. She knew that sharing her feelings mattered. She knew that Mommy is a reasonable person who can admit when she misses a cue, who will believe her daughter.
I don’t know. It all seemed ridiculously momentous to me. There are so many days as a parent that make you think, “Man, I messed up today. I’ve ruined them, they’ll curse me in therapy, I’m doing this all wrong….” And then there’s this one day where everything is right again.
Today was such a day. She has grown up so much. I’m smarter because of her. More humble. More mature.