Testing the Waters


Many times, it can feel as if I jinx myself when I write about my life online. Especially when I share the good times. The things that are going well with my daughter.

Not long after writing this post about how she couldn’t imagine us not getting along, we could. not. get. along.

At all.

Seemingly overnight, my sweet girl vanished. She was hostile. Her behavior ugly.

Every moment of every day was a struggle. It felt as if we were fighting over everything. And nothing.

It was exhausting. At night I would fall into my bed and wonder, “What am I doing wrong?”

After one particularly difficult morning, we drove to her preschool in silence. None of the usual chitchat or singing to her favorite music.

Just sullenness and resentfulness. The mood was tense.

When we arrived and I parked the car, I got in the back and sat next to her. With the height of her car seat we were eye to eye. I took a deep breath.

“Sweetie, I love you very much. But I don’t care for your behavior lately. I know getting big is scary. And hard. I understand. And I think that is why you have been acting the way you have.”

Her scowl softened, and I continued.

“It’s important to me you know I’m on your side. I am always going to be on your side. No matter what. You and I are supposed to be a team.”

For once, she maintained eye contact.

“I don’t want to fight with you. I don’t like it. We need to try to work together instead of against each other. I believe we can. Do you?”

“Yes, Mommy.”

“I love you, sweet girl.”

“I love you, too.”

It was a turning point.

We still have our moments, of course. But they are fewer and farther between. We are both learning to choose our battles carefully. Not to sacrifice our relationship for the sake of being “right.”

We are learning how to be a team. It’s a delicate dance. She wants independence. But still needs guidance and supervision. I give where I can. Stand my ground when I need to.

She stands her ground when she feels she needs to as well. And I that is important. It will serve her well in life.

Right now she is testing the waters. At just four years old, she is already beginning the long, complex, precarious journey of discovering who she is. And who she can become.

It is a road that in many ways she must travel alone. That is hard for me to swallow. Yes, I know she will learn from her failures as much, if not more than from her successes. But I won’t enjoy watching them.

There will pain. At times, she will be tentative. She will stumble, and she will fall. At others, she will soar. She will overcome. And there will be joy.

I have traveled this road myself. I still am, even at 44. But I have not been entirely alone on my journey, and neither should she.

As her mother, I do not believe in being merely an observer. Not all the time, anyway. I hope to have the opportunity to be part companion, part guide, part cheerleader. I pray I serve her well.

Above all, I want to avoid being an enemy or obstructionist as she navigates her way. She will encounter plenty of those. My role should be different.

I want to be the rock she clings to when the storms come and the water grows rough. The raft she floats on to enjoy the calm seas and feel the sun on her face. The building blocks of the ship she sails to reach for distance shores. The beach she stands firmly upon once she arrives.

So dip your toes in, little girl. Get ready to swim. Your life awaits. And it’s going be grand.

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