Tuesday, March 9

The Beautiful Letdown

(post title borrowed from a Switchfoot song of the same name)

My Girl. She broke my heart today. It was a simple thing, a 3 year old’s melodrama, but it hurt me anyway.

I don’t even remember all the details, but it basically went like this: she asked for something, I said no, her world was shattered. My Girl is not an aggressive child. She is passive, and highly emotional, and irrational, and affectionate.

My Girl, she loves big. When she loves, it is the most loving love in the history of love. She is filled to the brim with kindness, she radiates happiness. Her smile is infectious and her laugh dissipates any pain or anguish. She is beautiful; and when you tell her so, she answers with a gleeful, “I know!” But it is not yet a conceited or self-indulgent answer. She knows she is beautiful only because her parents tell her she is, and her parents do not lie to her.

My Girl is impossible to discipline. She is a pleaser, but only in the most sincere “I want you to be happy because I am happy when you are happy and it is so good to be happy” way. She wants to do what is right. She falls to a thousand pieces when she realizes she has hurt someone, or has disobeyed the rules. She gets frustrated, but rarely acts on that frustration, except for fits of melting-to-a-puddle sadness.

My Girl’s emotional spectrum rivals that of any hormonal teenager.

So today, when I denied her request, she fell apart. Usually my denial is met with a high pitched argument, “But, Mah-ha-haaa-meee!” Today however, she simply screamed… stomped… and then walked away quietly.

“Well, that was easy,” I mistakenly thought.

I went about my business; tending to the baby, gathering dirty clothes from the kids’ rooms.

When I came back through the living room I discovered my Girl, my Ladybug, in a veritable –yet silent– fit of rage.

Earlier this morning she had painstakingly drawn several pictures for her daddy to see later. She put all of the pages in a secret place to retrieve once her very own Favorite Person Ever got home. What I found was my sweet, relatively mild-mannered child, furiously ripping her artwork to shreds and scattering the pieces all over the living room floor.

She. was. pissed.

She was very literally seething. I asked what on earth she was doing, and when she looked up there were tears brimming at the edges of her huge blue eyes. She shrieked at me, “YOU MADE ME DO THIS! YOU MADE ME MESS UP DADDY’S ART BEFORE HE COULD SEE!... YOU! MADE! ME!”

And then my heart, it was smashed into smithereens.

I tried to explain that no, I did not make her do that. I tried to explain (again, always) that no one can make her do anything she does not choose to do, and that she was in control of her actions, and that this was a decision she made.

Yeah, right.

She looked around on the floor, devastated at what she had done. It was like she was coming out of a trance. Even still, she wouldn’t back down from the fact that I hadn’t given her what she wanted and that I MADE HER RIP HER TREASURES FOR DADDY!!


Once, when my son was a few weeks old, I called my mother in tears because I (exhausted, delirious, deprived) had slept through a night feeding and also a huge blow-out poo diaper, and I had given my son an immediate, blistering diaper rash.

She gave me this pearl of reassuring, comforting, very mother-like advice: “Savannah, you’re never going to stop messing up. You’re never going to not let them down. You will always do the wrong thing.”

She shocked me out of my crying jag.

“What? Mom, what??”

“Savannah, you will be, and already are, a fabulous mother. You love your son; you do everything in your mortal power to keep him happy and healthy. You are already teaching him about life and unconditional love. You will be the best mother you can possibly be, but there will always be some disappointment. You won’t always get everything right. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Change his diaper, feed him, and continue doing the best you can, because really, you’ve got no other choice.”


Today, my Girl broke my heart. I let her down, and she let me know about it. I made her angry, and she reacted.

I made her rip her art.

I will continue to disappoint my kids, and they’ll disappoint me. We will hurt each other’s feelings, unintentionally and otherwise. But we will continue to love each other, support each other, and foster each other’s creativity and self-awareness.

Once I got her calmed down, my Ladybug asked me to help her tape her work back together.

It is not the same as it was before, you can see the “fault-lines,” but it is something we got through, something we repaired, together, and it is still beautiful.


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