Yesterday, I wrote about how much I cry because I’m a mother. Today, I’m writing about how I made my daughter cry. I tried to fix her up with a verbal bandage bordered in hugs and kisses after the damage was done, but I still capped off the night crying in my glass of wine.
While we were playing Zingo yesterday, Babyface said, “I’m going to make new friends and play with more than one friend at a time, Mommy.” She was smiling ear-to-ear, like she just pooped a pound of gold (mom analogies, I know). It was that same look she used to have when she would pee or poop and not miss the potty.
It was wonderful to hear her say this, because she has the habit to cling to one friend at a time and take possession of them, giving an attitude to anyone who tries to break the bond. It’s something her teacher says she needs to work on. It’s something I talk to Babyface about every day. So, to hear her say this out of the blue was a nice starting block.
Hoping she would run with this new attitude, I said, “That’s so wonderful, sweetie. I’m proud of you. Next year, all of your friends will be going to different schools, so this attitude will help you to make new friends.”
She looked at me with confusion and said, “My friends aren’t going to the same school next year? Where are they going? Why can’t they stay in my school?”
Ruh roh. Instead of just encouraging her, I opened a new can of worms, big, fat ones full of challenge. “It’s okay, sweetie, they will be going to different schools because they live in different school districts. It’ll be okay, sweetie. You know how you go to ballet and see different friends there and you go to soccer and see different friends there? Well, it’s the same thing.” [Foot shoved down my throat so far, I was gagging]
“But I want them to stay in the four-year-old school. Why can’t they stay in the four-year-old school?” she asked.
Her bottom lip was fully extended and she was almost on the verge of a cartoon baby cry. The kind where tears are flying everywhere and the “wah” sound effect actually exists. The kind of cry that even chocolate can’t calm.
“Sweetie, you know how your cousins all go to different schools, depending on their age? Well, when kids turn five, they go to a bigger school. A bigger school for bigger kids.” I said.
“Will I be going to a big kid school?” she asked.
“Uh, um, I don’t know. You could be in a five-year-old class at your current school with the same teacher or you could be going to a different school. I’m not sure yet. We can keep talking about it over the next several months.”
And, of course, this is where she started to bawl. There were so many tears that the hardwood was a danger zone. Enough to warrant one of those yellow “caution wet” pylons. I hugged her really tight. I hoped the comfort of my arms would take away her worry and fears. I realized this was just the beginning. There would be so many scary firsts that she would face in the future. Scary firsts that she would have to be BRAVE for.
I sat indian-style and placed her on my right thigh, so she would be close but I could still see her face. “In life, you will face many new things, but I need you to be brave when you face them. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to cry. It’s how you deal with that fear that matters. Remember how mommy always tells you to be brave in the face of adversity? Well, this is a good example of when you try your best to be brave. I know it seems scary right now, but I promise you one day you’ll look back and wonder why you were even afraid. Besides, mommy would never let anything happen to you, right?”
Her tears went from a category 1 to a category 5, until there were only crocodile tracks left. “Okay, mommy, I will be brave. I promise.”
She gave me one of those tight hugs that you imprint in your memory. That you hope, even if you someday hit dementia, will still remain tattooed to your mind. I knew what I had told her was sound advice. I knew that she would get over the life changes ahead. What I didn’t know was whether everything would be okay. One of those false promises I let out as a mother. One of those false promises I let out to make her feel safe.
After she went to bed, I poured a glass of wine and let out a few tears. Not because I had made her cry, but because there would be so many scary and unknown things she would face in life. I would watch her worry and cry, many times over in the future. And, I would never be able to save her from being afraid or protect her from the outcomes of her fears. All I could do is be there to listen and to hug her.