Help! I want to fall in love with my child again. Ugh, it feels awful just saying that. Of course I love her. But I want to like her and be smitten with her, too! Only eight short years ago I was my baby’s Number One. My husband was right up there, too, with lots of diaper changing, rocking, swaddling, and singing to our little infant. But back in those days I really was top dog. At least it felt like it. In hindsight, I guess it is pretty easy to get a baby to be pleased with you – feed it, love it, give it a comfy bed, and they’ll coo and smile at you and grab your fingers. That makes you feel pretty loved.
So what the heck happened in the last few years? My eight year old is an internalizer. She’s not quick to come asking for help because she’s usually determined to do it herself. The downside to that is that by the time she is completely exhausted and frustrated from trying to jam her big green arm cast into her shirt sleeve, she is sweating and crying. Hearing her grunts and cries, I ask if she needs help, but I get greeted with a fierce, screaming, “No, I don’t need any help!” while she whips herself sideways, away from me, so that her long, blonde uncombed hair swats me on the arm as she rejects my offer and effort (I just climbed all sixteen stairs to come to your rescue, kid!) to help.
I know it’s probably not humanly possible to like any person all of the time, but I’d sure be happy to like my girl for the majority of the day. I feel like I am constantly having to try to figure her out. My five year old is crystal clear. She’s just like me – happy, smile; sad, frown. (angry, yell.) Well I’m trying to make a concerted effort not to yell unneccesarily. My Ellie tells it like it is.“ I HATE THESE SHOES! I DON’T WANT TO WEAR THEM!” she’ll scream if her shoe is too tight (or loose, or the wrong color or style.) As much as I hate noise, this screaming does not faze me. She’s being completely authentic – she’s telling me exactly what her problem is and I know how to fix it. And ten minutes later she comes up to me with a sad, ashamed face and says, “I’m sorry I yelled, Mommy.” I understand everything about this entire situation!
Meanwhile, I can only speculate what’s going on with Sammy. Before she gets feisty, she must be working on some kind of internal monologue. Maybe I keep showing up in Act II and only Sammy knows what Act I was?!
At my church’s women’s retreat last weekend, our leader declared, “Being loved is giving love.” I think there was a little more to it than that, but the gist was that if you want to be loved by God, you give your love away to others. I heard it and thought, “hmm, interesting, and kind of sweet. But I’m not sure I’m always in the mood for that.” I feel like I give a lot for my kids, rarely receiving a thank you for the 1.1 million tasks it takes just to make it through the day with a child. But today, after my ears got blown out by the great blonde beast (her teachers would never believe a word of this!) I took a short walk down to the cul-de-sac. I was so emotionally exhausted and beat up that I didn’t know if I was going to scream or cry or throw myself on the ground. I was thinking about how much I want to love her even though I don’t feel loved. (And of being a giant failure for experiencing this lack of adoration in the first place.) By the time I made it back to the house, Ellie was on the doorstep, ready to walk to the cul-de-sac with me. I shouted through the window, asking if Sammy wanted to come, but being greeted by her shoulder, Ellie and I headed down the hill as I called out, “Back in a minute!”
From the corner, we saw Sammy standing at the edge of the grass, so I waved for her to join us. In a pretty blue dress with her blonde mop trailing behind her, she ran like a dainty princess down the hill. I thought, “Dang, she sure is cute like that.” I stooped down as she got closer and I said, “I just want to help you. I always want to help you. I’m your momma. I want to fix your problems. I just don’t always know what to do to help.” I picked her up and she snuggled me tight which told me I must have finally said something right today. And maybe being loved is indeed giving love even when you don’t feel like it. But just in case, I bought both of my kids T-shirts from Target that say Mom is my Superhero because sometimes you need to see it in black and white.