My daughter had a tantrum tonight … a bad one. It was one of those irrational, unconsolable, no reason except I’m over-tired types. It stunk. Aside from cleaning up a cyclonic wind-strewn pattern of toys, three bathrooms, dirty dishes, muddy floors and making dinner … I now had a colossal meltdown to deal with. Did I mention this was before a Bible study we were hosting in an hour? Believe it or not, it all started over two measly chicken nuggets. Of course, logically, she could have just eaten them and left the table with no issue, but why would anything ever just be easy on a hard day? Instead, she chose to wait until the chicken was entirely cold and we had ten minutes before company arrived to get herself so worked up she, in her words, “can’t stop crying.”
I was frustrated, to say the least. Of all the things I was dealing with, this was such an avoidable waste of time. My daughter is such a beautiful, sweet girl, but sometimes, like any of us girls, she can become a stereotypical emotional roller coaster. But even through the worst of it, the sobbing hiccups, puffy-eyed-tears, red-blotched-cheeks, and snotty-sniffles, I wouldn’t back down. I couldn’t. It wasn’t about the chicken … it was about keeping my word, and even when she doesn’t want to hear it, I need her to know that I always mean what I say–that she can trust me.
My sister recently said something that resonated deeply (and this is what I tried desperately to remember tonight). She was having her own mommy issues and said, “Sometimes the hardest thing is when you want to love them a certain way, but they won’t let you.” That is how I felt tonight … how I felt with my son last week … how I felt with my husband the last time we didn’t see eye-to-eye. And I think the truth in her words is honestly the most difficult part of relationships–it’s the disappointment that you don’t get to be what you’d envisioned for them, or to them. When I was a new wife, I thought I’d get to spend all this time with my husband, but the reality was, we were both totally involved in our new jobs and rarely saw one another aside from the latest of hours and weekends. When I was a new mom, I envisioned all lullaby nights and sweet cuddles (and while plenty of them happened) there were also unbelievably challenging hours where I dreamed of a return policy. Thankfully, light always came in the morning … and with it, a renewed definition of what love is.
Love is malleable, yes, but withstanding. It can be disappointed, beaten and changed, but not broken … not completely, if it’s real. Real love can hurt and slight, but it can’t end. And with those I love, even when they don’t let me show them the way I wish I could, I never stop. The poet Pablo Neruda put my feelings into words better than my own. He said …
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
That is what I want to show–what I want to feel. And I’m so thankful, that even on nights like tonight, the messy ones, I can still tiptoe into my daughter’s room, kiss her hand and feel her small fingers curl around mine, as we both dream of another day–to love.