The slight slump of her shoulders, the downcast eyes averting my questioning look, the pasted-on-smile for benefit of her schoolmates. As soon as she stepped off the school bus, I knew something was wrong. But she held it together as well as a 7-year old could. We talked casually on the way home, skirting anything that would sprout a tear, but as we entered the front door, cracks began to show.
She dropped her backpack to the ground, snapped at her little sister, and plopped on the couch. Although these behaviors needed to be addressed, my daughter needed more than disciplined parenting. I sat down beside her and pulled her to me; her shoulders began to relax into the nurturing embrace of her mother. Her warm tears trickled down her cheeks as she opened her heart.
That boy picked on her at school, again. He laughed at her artwork. A mean, purposeful laugh. Again. I tried to find the balance between sympathy, empathy, and just listening, all the while teaching my daughter the hardest lesson: to love her enemies. This job of parenting a child’s broken heart is sometimes too much to bear.
As we talked, I could tell there was something more, something she wasn’t sharing. I had to dig, ask more questions than I used to. At 7 1/2, she is beginning to put walls between us. Walls of independence. Walls the color of tears. Translucent enough that I can still see through them and find my way to her soft, squishy heart. But will these walls become more opaque over time? It’s inevitable she will grow into her own young woman, but the distance is already breaking me. The tiny baby I held in my arms, to whom I whispered my deepest secrets in the quiet hours of those early, sleepless nights is building her own spaces without me. How do I earn her trust for the longterm, an open door inside those walls? Will she believe I will always knock on that door to offer a listening ear, without judgment, without retribution? I am here, precious daughter. My embrace is always here for you.
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