One evening, a few weeks ago, I was feeling particularly frustrated. I was tired from work and it was too many days until the next weekend. Whether by example, or pure serendipity, Nina picked up my mood. I was trying not to be shouty but no matter how hard I tried, nothing was good enough.
The supper I made was yucky.
Can we get Old McDonald’s for supper?
Why was her cheese cut into triangles instead of cubes?
She wasn’t allowed to wear her cape in the tub.
She didn’t like those pyjamas.
Why can’t we watch Frozen again?
She wanted to paint.
What’s that sound?
We were out of elephant-shaped flossers.
Oh the humanity.
After what felt like an eternity of arguing and wailing, we were lying in her bed together. I was trying to breathe calmly. She was trying to choose a story to read. (Negotiating bedtime reading with her is like meeting with a damn Teamster.) She handed me her selections, and then she looked at me so seriously. And she said:
“Mama. Am I a bad girl?”
Of course not, I answered. She is a good girl. A great girl. But even great girls do bad things sometimes. Everybody does bad things sometimes; even Mama does. She is a great girl, who has lots of time to practice doing more good things. And I love her always. Her joy (relief?) at my answer was so unexpected, and she wrapped her arms around my neck and hugged me so tightly that I understood what people meant when they said they were so happy they could burst.
Thankfully, for once in my life, I had the right words exactly when I needed them. Sweet Jesus, I hope I can find them again.