It was one of those days. Dreary, overcast and full of rain. I struggled in my day between the stress at work and the mental to-do list I’d created for myself when I got home. By the time I picked up my daughter – I was exhausted. Seeing her come out of day care happy reminded me to be grateful for all the little things despite a hard day. I put on a smile.
Our car rides are always time to catch up. She tells me about her day – the good, the bad the ugly – and I give her a few of my highlights. We talk about the plans for the evening – homework, gymnastics practice, what’s for dinner (always a hot topic) – and sometimes we just talk about stuff – jokes, music, gossip at school (third grade is very dramatic). This day in particular, she seemed happy but reported a few important things to note – she hit her knee at school hard on a corner she didn’t see (OUCH!) and her closest friend in class wasn’t being so friendly anymore. I offered condolences on the ow-ey and advised that she socialize with those more interested in playing nice.
At home we got into our rhythm quickly. Homework – check. Snack – check. Pizza ordered for diner – check. Leo on for gymnastics lesson – check. A little stretching – check. Play with Dad – check. Oops! She fell and hurt herself. Hugs given and tears wiped – check. Off we went to gym. I’m a gym mom. I spend four days at the gym with my kid. She’s a gymnast. It’s our second home. I settled in for a quick 30 minutes of normalcy -I’m reading a delightful book so I indulged in a few pages – and just when it was getting better than good the lesson was over. Her coach raved about her as always and I thanked her profusely for her kindness and time. These people have a gift. They communicate with our children and our children retain every word they say. It’s wizardry I hope to some day understand.
In the car ride home – she seemed upset. More visor talk lead to she’s nervous for her next meet. It’s the State Championship! I told her it’s just another meet. That the only people watching her will be the judges and the parents from our team – like always. That I’ve been to an important meet before (Nationals for speech – I’m a nerd) and that I was so nervous that I didn’t do as well as I know I could have. And afterwards I regretted it so much. Being nervous won’t help but hurt her performance so it’s important to be excited – she’s going to state after all – and do the best she can. No matter what – we are incredibly proud of all her hard work. This seemed to settle her. As she said – she’s in it to win it!
Back into our home routine – it was shower time. Strangely, she didn’t fight me about the shower. Instead we argued about pajamas. She’s grown so much that the nightgown she wanted to wear to bed was essentially a tee shirt. I suggested some shorts or new jammers. This doesn’t bode well. More tears, frustration evident, and some foot stomping. She came out for dinner in new pajamas – clearly annoyed – and butt heads with Dad. More frustration and before I even know whats happening – she’s sent to bed.
Parenting is difficult. We’ve all had those days.
After a spousal exchange – I took a piece of pizza into her room and sat on the bed next to her. Those big brown eyes – red and full of tears. Honestly, I have so many conversations with my daughter through my visor mirror or the bathroom mirror getting ready in the mornings that I sometimes forget what it’s like to actually have a face-to-face conversation with those big brown eyes. She instantly filled me with warmth. I calmed her down and advised she stay quiet while we talked so as to not be interrupted by Dad.
And so we talked. She explained her frustrations – that her day has just gone bad and she’s upset. We talked through the things upsetting her. She’d fallen and tripped but looking around her room – it’s no wonder. It’s a disaster zone. I made the suggestion to be a little more careful in general but that the room needed to be cleaned ASAP. We talked through the PJ dispute. She’s a becoming a young lady so roaming the house in her underwear is not an option. I told her we can get more nighties, if that’s her preference, but that she’s grown so much so that hers are too short now.
Then we talked about the general issues. She struggles with expressing her feelings. It’s as if she can’t get the words out and it only upsets her more. She’s convinced I won’t understand but half the time I don’t know what it is because she’s unable to tell me. Take a breath – inhale, exhale, collect your thoughts. I told her the struggles I had growing up. My mother wouldn’t allow me to walk away to gather my emotions, thoughts, or feelings and then come back and talk to her like a rational human being. Nope! Just wasn’t allowed. She had to speak right then and there. I told her I understand it’s hard sometimes to say what you feel and that if she’s having trouble saying the words she could write them down in a journal. That it was okay to ask for a minute to get it together and then come back and talk to me when we aren’t seeing eye-to-eye or effectively communicating. Taking a breather is needed sometimes. But that when we get back together to talk – she needs to be willing to talk and understand. Also – I gave her the friendly reminder that I am older, occasionally wiser and am here to help her. I want to see her succeed in all she does and will never lead her astray (certainly not intentionally).
It was a good conversation. One she may not remember but that I will cherish forever.
All cleaned up, belly fully, calmed down and ready for bed. It was time to say her prayers. She’s often says the cookie cutter prayer she created years ago – or some variation of it – each night. Tonight – I could tell she needed a little more than that. So I offered one more tidbit of advice. I told her to first give thanks for some of the good things that happened today. Yes – today did not go according to plan but tomorrow is a new day and with a new attitude/perspective it can and will be better. It’s important to give thanks for those things – big or small – that were good in that day. Then seek help in some of the struggles she faced today. There is never any shame in asking for help but it’s important to ask. Lastly, that it’s important to speak from the heart and be genuine.
She prayed. And it came from the heart. Tears rolled down her face and mine as I listened and silently offered up my own prayers. At the end – she smiled – almost one of relief.
To me – prayer transcends all boundaries. Doesn’t matter who or what you believe in, where you’re from or what language is your native tongue. It’s simply giving thanks and seeking help/insight. This may come as a shock to some – but I’m only human. I know I don’t have all the answers (though I sometimes act like I do). I often do the latter in my prayers because parenting is the hardest most enjoyable job I’ve ever had but they don’t give you a manual for your baby when he/she is born. That teaching her these lessons is important but I continually question – should I have done that different, was this okay, could that have been better? On this night, she grew a little. She spoke words purely from her heart and sought help because she is, after all, only human. The most important little human in my entire universe. But human nonetheless. She too struggles in her little world. She too has bad days. And she too needs help. On this night, I taught my daughter to pray.