Written by Emily
It’s at 1:30 in the morning with the white noise and soft glow of night-lights setting the mood for an easy sleep that I nestle into bed with my worry. I retrace the events and conversations of the day and assure myself I could have handled something differently. I could have, I should have, I better remember to, what was I thinking, tomorrow I’ll, world peace is inevitable if I, and on and on until I’m certain I’m doing my children and society a great disservice. Sweet dreams!
Convenient that this strikes at 1:30 when there is nothing I can do about anything except maybe call the President because he’s probably up–what with the state of the Free World resting on his shoulders. We have that in common.
One of the many worries taunting me in the darkness, is Chloe and her anxiety that rears its head in a cocktail of tummy trouble and tears. It’s been months now. And we’ve been here before, Chloe, her anxiety and I hashing it out before school when we can’t possibly fit one more thing into our morning especially tears because where the heck is the other glove, and you have to brush your teeth, and what about your show-and-tell? Real tears cascade from her big hazel eyes and she means it; her belly hurts. It does. But we have to go.
And there it is again, anxiety, before family gatherings or birthday parties or time away from me. And again before she gets her hair cut or rides the ride she’s been looking forward to for months. And again before she gets a present. A present!
I’ve held her and cuddled her. I’ve curled up with her in bed and shared the things that make my stomach churn.
“Like what, Mommy?”
“Well, being away from you can do that to me.”
With eyes as big as saucers, “Me, too! Me, too!”
And we connect, and I share my tools to take the ache away or quiet it for awhile. And she falls asleep. Comfortable until 3 minutes before we have to go to school the next morning, a school with teachers and a classroom full of friends she promises me she loves.
I’ve gotten irritated, frustrated with her, with her anxiety. Frustrated that she sidles up to me on the hour to tell me her belly hurts about this or that or something else. I’ve said, “Chlo, maybe you should tell me when your belly doesn’t hurt.” Callous.
I’ve never done the cry it out method for sleep or otherwise.
Now, my girl cries before school, but she goes. I walk her to the door. Tears–real, fat, round tears make pathways down her cheeks. We have a hand thing, Chlo and I. I squeeze like Morse Code-squeeze, squeeze, sqeeeeeze. She repeats the pattern to tell me she’s okay. Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeeeeze. But she’s crying.
This is courage, Chloe. This is bravery–pushing through even when you’re scared.
When I pick her up, she’s dancing.
Yesterday was Chloe’s Christmas show. I wasn’t sure what would happen. I wasn’t sure what girl would walk onto stage. And then she entered the room, red faced and silently weeping. She was furiously wiping her eyes and nose on her sleeve and in her hand. She was trying to wipe it all away. But failing at it.
“Should I take her a tissue?” A mother asked.
I paused watching my girl. “No,” I answered. “We’re going to wait.”
I gave her thumbs up, her dad waved, her Gigi blew her kisses.
And the concert began. She opened her mouth and sang with all the spirit she could muster.
And I’m crying now because this is courage. This is bravery.
At the end of the show, I wanted to crash the stage and hoist her on my shoulders and parade her around the room like the victor she was, but I didn’t. She ran to us when she was dismissed. A smile marked her face. Her eyes glowed. We were all proud of her, but more importantly she was proud, too.
I know I’m going to get it wrong. A lot. Again and again. I’ll try to find the balance between digging my heels in for my three or letting them choose. We’ll butt heads. I’ll choose wrong. They will, too. And I’ll spend hours of my life worrying at night–getting the same belly aches Chloe gets now.
But not tonight. Not for Chloe. Because she did it. She was brave. And without ever knowing it, she gave me the gift of a good night.
Well done, my brave girl. Well done.