I’ve been having a hard time connecting with my daughter lately. She’s two and she’s been sick on and off for the last two weeks and she hasn’t exactly been the most pleasant person to be around. I say that as an observation not as a judgment. It’s not her fault. She might be thinking the same thing about me.
Still it’s difficult to take sometimes when she seems to not want to be with me and she’s asking for Mommy all day long even though I’ve told her over and over that Mommy is at work. And I ask her if Daddy can read the book, and if Daddy can put her shoes on, and if it’s okay if Daddy gets her milk.
And she screams and flails, and yells, “No, Mommy!” And being the adult I know that this behavior is just a manifestation of her age and of her being sick. Yet the fact remains that I still have to deal with these situations. I still have to responsibly interact with her, and I still have to treat her with kindness and understanding.
And it’s exhausting. Being with a sick two year old is possibly the most trying experience I have had as a parent. I feel like there is no way to win, that nothing I can do in all my wisdom and maturity will be able to improve the relationship. And the thought of having a sustained poor relationship with my daughter fills me with dread. And it exhausts me.
I wonder when it’s going to end. I try to conjure the image of my sweet, sweet little girl laughing and playing and saying nice things to me. And even though I know that it was just a few short weeks ago that this behavior was the norm, I have a hard time getting those images into my head.
And even though I know Daddy’s Little Girl will return eventually, possibly within a matter of days, the thought of any more of this current state of affairs is difficult to take. It worries and troubles me, and in the end it just makes me tired.
When I hear her screaming as she wakes up from her nap, I feel like I am stuck to the couch. I had tried to take a nap myself but it just didn’t happen. I was too tired and I had too may things preoccupying my mind to fall asleep. But just as I was drifting off, the screams awoke me with jilting clarity.
I almost cried. The thought of having to deal with this behavior for the rest of the day is enough to drive me insane. Not because of the behavior itself, but because I feel like there is nothing I can do to improve the situation.
Five minutes later, I’ve calmed her down. She’s sitting in my lap and we’re rocking gently in the rocking chair. We’re looking out the window watching the clouds move by and the rain drip off the telephone wires. The trees swirl around in the distance and directly in front of us one solitary fly is glued to the window outside.
“Widdle bwack fwy,” she says softly through her snot-covered binky. “Little black fly,” I repeat, leaning back in the chair and closing my eyes. My arms are around her and her head is resting against my chest and shoulders.
I’m enjoying this time, but I can’t help thinking that it’s going to end any minute with a violent wave of her arms and a squirming out of my lap and some impossible demands and repeated cries of “Mommy do it” to anything I offer her.
But those things don’t happen. We just sit in the chair rocking gently looking out the window at the trees and the clouds and the telephone wires and the little black fly on the window.
And I start to relax a little and I hold my girl tighter and she lets me. It is quiet and the only sound I hear is the sucking of her binky. And when I adjust a little so that I can lie back more comfortably and close my eyes, she doesn’t seem to mind.
When I open my eyes she is looking back over her shoulder at me. She sees me smile a little, an exhausted smile with just a hint of tears, that says, “I love you and I’m glad you’re my daughter.” She doesn’t say anything to me, but somehow it feels like she knows. She knows that we haven’t been getting along, and she knows that this is the beginning of a return to the way things used to be.
We sit in the chair for another half hour not saying anything. We are completely still except for the gentle rocking. My arms are around her and the weight of her body against mine is a clear reminder that it’s all worth it. It’s always worth it.
I nod off in my exhaustion and I think to myself, I’ve got my little girl back.
When I open my eyes my little girl is still lying on my chest and the little black fly is still glued to its spot on the window.