I stand over her bed, my hands wrapped around her tiny wrists, my face parallel with her face, my words talking at her while her mouth clamps tight. And I wonder what hurts more, that she wanted to take a swing at me, or that she refuses to look at me.
For a second, I want to take it all away. The privileges, the sweets, the field trip to the camp where my husband grew up. Harsh words of judgment are on my tongue. The consequences are deserved; no one could blame me. If she were me, she’d do the same.
Just to make sure, I ask her, “What would you do if you were me? How would you handle it?”
“Handle what?” She doesn’t break gaze with the wall.
“This. How would you handle this right now?”
“I’d send me to bed without dessert and I wouldn’t let me go to camp tomorrow.”
She can read my mind without seeing its words. “Why?” I ask.
“Because I don’t deserve it.”
I’m about to agree with her. But my words are ensnared by a long list of things I don’t deserve.
And I, towering above her, feel my spirit drop to the floor. I don’t deserve her.
“You might be right. There are lots of things I have but don’t deserve.” In that moment, I need her to understand the gift of grace—the receiving because you are loved and not because you perform. As I unwrap the gift, I am wrapped up myself—undone by the measure I require.
I realize I’m still talking and need to summarize, “So you’re going tomorrow. But first you’re getting a solid night’s sleep.” I let go of her wrists and look into eyes that now stare into mine. I don’t know her to the depths that I know my other children. She isn’t made in my image, so I can’t see parts of myself in her physically. But her ferocity—that’s me. Her will to fight—that’s me. Her desire to find belonging—I recognize myself. Her need to know she’s loved—I’ve been to the dark places that leads.
I walk out of the room and close the door behind me and stand still. I didn’t say goodnight. I didn’t say I love you. So I crack the door back open to fix one of my many mistakes and see a crack in her demeanor. My stone-wall girl looks like she could cry. And I ask her why.
And she tells me that she wants to be a person who deserves things. And she tells me she’s sorry.
And her desire becomes my prayer for us both as I wrap her in my arms and tell her I’m so proud to be her mom.