She comes out into the kitchen in the morning in tired black leggings a touch too small and a black long sleeve shirt a lot too large and my first reaction is puzzlement, then a grumpy wondering why she’d chose to wear THAT this morning. This child has a quirky/adorable sense of style and LOVES clothes, usually the brighter the better. And the truth is, I love to see cute clothes on my kids every bit as much as I enjoy wearing cute things myself, so when they look scruffy, it kinda bothers me.
But somehow the moment moves forward, until a bit later, thinking of errand-running later in the day, I ask her to put on a cuter shirt ‘instead of all that black’. And she complies, a little huffy, but silent. And still that little niggling thought is at the back of my mind, wondering about all the black.
But again the day sweeps me forward — reading, chemistry, math, laundry, cooking– until lunchtime where she mopes over her food. I ask her what’s up and she doesn’t tell me and pokes at her food some more. Finally I tell her sternly to eat her five bites of mac and cheese and get it over with. And after lunch when she growls at me or a sister, or maybe both of us, I ask her to rest on the couch near me til she gets her head together.
Then I reconsider and pull her, stiff and long-legged and cranky onto my lap, where she suddenly melts into my lap like that’s where she needed to be all along, and all of a sudden she says, “Did you know I had the most horrible dream last night?”
And she launches into a story of her Ethiopian dad dying, and her being in America not able to help him, and it all being so very sad that she couldn’t bear it. “That’s why I wore all black today,” she said.
And suddenly I am awash in sadness at her bearing those sad thoughts alone without telling me. And I wish she’d just SAID at the beginning of the day what was bugging her, for crying out loud. Clueless mommas like me need HELP with this kind of thing, after all. But mostly I am repentant of my busy-ness, and my not-asking-ness, for ignoring my own instinct about my kid.
And here in my arms, long legs or not, I see how little she is and how very much she still needs her momma to look her in the eyes and snuggle her in close and ask her how she’s doing today. And tomorrow. And every day.