It was one of those days. You know the ones – the kind that begin too early after a night of bad sleep. The kind that begins with a child asking you if it’s time to be awake yet. You send the child back to her bedroom knowing that there’s no way you’ll be able to return to sleep, so you lie in bed, covers yanked up to your chin willing yourself to just grasp five more minutes of sleep. Just five more.
But you can’t.
You get up and brush your teeth and plod downstairs to start the day. There are cups of chocolate milk to be poured, lunches to be packed. You need to get your kids motivated and moving so that they’re dressed and ready for school when it’s time for them to go. One climbs uneventfully onto the school bus, the other gets buckled into your car so you can take her to school.
She’s unhappy – it’s her gloves, her scarf. It’s everything, it’s nothing. Urging her to use her big girl voice doesn’t work and neither does trying to drown the sound with radio static. What is it? you think to yourself. I don’t know how to fix this! I don’t know what’s wrong.
She wails away while you drive through the preschool parking lot and you find that in addition to being extremely cold, snow has the unfortunate side effect of making it impossible to find a parking spot at the school. Frustrated and gritting your teeth, you drive around to the back of the school to park illegally in the school bus drop off area.
Your child is still screaming.
You carry her screaming, propped on your left hip. Her backpack clutched in your right hand, you see the other mothers looking at you. You know the look because you’ve given it – the look that says, “Oh thank god it’s not MY child.” You paste a smile on your face, stubbornly refusing to let them see how flustered you are, how beneath your scarf you are sweating, how your pulse is racing because what are they going to think of you, the mother with the screaming four year old?
You distract her, get her settled in for the day and you nearly flee the building. The ice keeps you from sprinting back to the car because you are drained. So so drained. You feel like a failure – this is your most important job and how come your child was crying, what was wrong with her scarf, why couldn’t you make it better, don’t you know how to do this stuff by now?
Later, you pick her up from school. She’s happy, she’s made a candy necklace. She shares it with you and she shows you all the Valentines she received from her friends. She got a lot of candy and she shares it, unprompted, with her older sister and you’ll get a fluttery feeling in your heart – the one that you get when they’re kind to each other.
At the end of the day, she works on the alphabet flashcards with dad and she knows all the letters, except J – and she flies through the rest of them like it’s the easiest thing in the world. A gleeful smile plays on her lips and she’s proud of herself, so proud.
You’re proud, too.
Later, you’ll tuck her in and she’ll talk to you about the alphabet and her sister and what are you doing this weekend. She’ll pause and look at your face and she’ll say, “Why do you smile at me too much? You’re always smiling at me.”
You’ll smile wider and tell her it’s because you just love her so much. Her smile brightens and she says, “I just love you too much, too.”