If only I knew.

Monday morning, we were getting ready for school. It had actually been a better than average morning, especially good for a Monday. I was sorting out socks to find a pair for her and Super L to wear when Little Miss G said something particularly hurtful to me. I let it get to me, and it stung because she touched upon something that I’ve been trying very hard to improve. And I have improved, but it has cost me in other ways. And basically, while fuming and bristling at her remark, I came to this conclusion: She just doesn’t know.

Unfortunately, that did not stop me from very slowly, and with measured precision, lay into her. Rather than blow up and shout, I expounded on the half-dozen ways in which she was out of line. Please forgive the metaphor, but I set my eight year old daughter in my cross-hairs and basically vented a week’s worth of aggravation in a lecture that lasted no less than 10 minutes. I basically argued her into a corner from which there was no escape. My husband will readily tell you that my ability to do this to is quite formidable. The fact that I verbally overpowered her simply because I could is really just wretched. Especially especially when I knew that she just didn’t know how much her words would hurt me, and to a certain extent, how inaccurate her assessment was that morning. And the longer I lectured her, the worse I felt. I can only imagine how she felt.

After dropping both girls off at school, I called John and talked to to him about it on the way to work. As usual, he was so good. He offered up some insights about her; he spoke some truth about her that I think we both needed someone to say–namely that she is a little girl, particularly for her age. A sweet little girl who is nowhere near as comfortable in her own skin as her younger sister. And sometimes we just expect too much from her.

He was right of course. Within a her strong body lies a delicate soul, even though she herself can be quite rough with her words and attitude. And I am often not fair. I am beginning to see that she her reticence to share her feelings may not be so much a choice she is making to be private, but more from being unsure as to how to say what she really means. And it’s no wonder that she would hesitate. Monday, she tried to tell me something, and I blew it. I shut her down. If only I knew when she is going to give me another opportunity to listen.

If only I knew what it was like for her, to walk a mile in her kid-sized shoes. Sometimes I feel like I am about seven years behind in understanding her. I can’t help but wonder if this is the price I’ve paid for working so much when she was a baby and a toddler. Did I miss some magical time that would have given me the ability to sort that beautiful puzzle-heart of hers? Or, worse, do I continue to miss it despite my efforts to be more balanced in my career and personal life? Is she showing me the pieces and I’m just not noticing them?

Or, is this just who my precious girl is, and anybody worthy of her love is going to have to wait on the shore of her heart, gaze into the rippling waves, and wait until she is good and ready to give them a clear view of what lies beneath the surface? If only I knew.

[see? I can’t even choose a metaphor for her and stick with it.]

It’s hard for me to admit that I have a difficult time identifying with and understanding my daughter, although I suspect it readily shows to some of my more observant friends and family members. I’ve failed her so many times, and it hurts to say so because she’s my beautiful puzzle. My precious one. The one who is going to make me work really, really hard. Her heart requires no less, and she certainly deserves the very best… even the kind of best that sometimes hurts to give.

But to know her better is my treasure. And so I’ll stand on her shore for as long as it takes.


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