What I Wish I’d Done All Along

This morning before school some incident occurred upstairs, and a wailing sobbing Rory came down. “Wyatt pushed me in the belly,” was the complaint, and I tried to offer the best sincere sympathy I’m capable of before coffee, but didn’t meet the second part of any such issue: addressing the culprit and demanding that he not do whatever it was again. And I didn’t hug for very long. Morning isn’t my best time. Sympathy isn’t my best thing.

Rob clearly felt my efforts were crap.

“He probably did do something, he’s mad about breakfast. Probably took it out on her.”
“He probably did, but I didn’t see it.”
“At least sympathize.”
“I DID.”

He walked out to add more sympathy, the coveted help getting the backpack packed and the scolding Wyatt surely deserved, and I felt bad. Why, no matter what promises I make to myself, do I have to be so unyielding? I want them to be independent in the morning, so I get all huffy about not helping. I want Rory to bounce back from these minor contretemps, so I don’t play the way she wants, with big reactions. But maybe if I did, sometimes, just sometimes, maybe even often, it would mean so much to her that it would be worth it? Maybe I don’t need to push so much independence on a kid who’s inclined that way anyway?

My lovely friend Shirlee just wrote about how one morning, whether daughter got up early, as is her wont, to hang with Shirlee during her working time (she’s the author of multiple books and she home schools, so man, she needs that time), Shirlee was so tempted to respond to her nudge with a “not now, Mommy’s working,” when said daughter whispered in her ear “Mommy, I’m glad you’re always soft with me.”

I think we all know I’d have told that kid to push off. I am so very rarely soft…and I’m regretting it. I think a little more softness (maybe a lot more softness) would have softened the row we’ve been hoeing around here for a long time.

So tonight, I tried soft. It was a usual evening, with maybe a little more snuggling and reading than usual (I drew the line at softly packing lunches, even though its chore they hate and Rory begged). Rob took everyone upstairs to read, and there was another incident of some kind, and Rory was ejected from the reading and sent to sit on the stairs until reading was over. There was stomping, there was sobbing, but there on the stairs she sat. I heard “I want Mommy! I want Mommy,” and I thought, well, there it is. My chance at some softness. So I went to the stairs, sat down and took her in my arms, and said “sounds like you’re having a tough night.” And I held her until Rob came out, then tucked her in bed. No discussion of whatever happened. No reading, either. Just sympathetic, and I hope soft, arms.

This would be more beautiful if Rory had eased into me and indulged in that softness, but I have to say she didn’t. She hugged me, held me, almost slipped a thumb in her mouth–and then pulled rigidly away, turned so that she was in my lap and not facing me and sat stiffly in my arms. She didn’t want to move, but she wasn’t fully into it, either. I shifted her, held her like a baby, and she tolerated the shift but didn’t relax.

She’s always been like this with me. Push me Pull me. I don’t know if it’s that we haven’t been together long enough for me to have her trust, or if it’s that I truly haven’t earned it. Either way, my job is the same. Soften up. Get there.

This may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

6 Responses to “What I Wish I’d Done All Along”

  1. J. says:

    Soft is hard, really hard somedays, pre-coffee it is damn near impossible, it is not just you trust me.

  2. slawebb says:

    This reminds me of a quote from Vicki. I have no idea where I read it, but I printed it out and have it up all over the house.

    “You will find no comfort in defenses or toughness. You will find comfort and solace and peace and healing and understanding by staying vulnerable and open. No one will attack you. And if they do, it is but mist. Stay open. Your kids need you open.”

    When you look at it that way everything changes. I just keep needing the reminder.

  3. It’s not just you. The worst part is that I thought I WAS soft before Matthew came home. And now I feel like I’m not, and I’m disappointed in myself. It is a decision every day.

  4. I’m really glad that your comment led me to find you here. I had a fantastic time this morning reading your posts (some incredibly funny) that hit so close to home!

  5. Flamingo says:

    i understand…i struggle with softness. i thought i was soft, but alas 4 kids into motherhood, and i know i’m not:) but you have to admit..non softness can work to your advantage many many times.

  6. Sarah Kate says:

    Well done, KJ. I’m so glad you’re doing this. And I won’t be the only one 🙂