This moment a couple days ago captured one of the sweetest parts of our day; precedes all the wins and sweetness of family strength and support as we spent a hard morning at the hospital waiting for my dad to be done with surgery.
Spending 3.5 hours inside a hospital was wearing for everyone. I’ve determined this trip that playgrounds should be a mandatory feature of public spaces: rest stops, gas stations, and for sure hospitals. My large beach bag and snack bag were well equipped and there was a courtyard and quaint play table for kids in the waiting room. We navigated those 3.5 hours with ease and after the relief of seeing my dad my heart felt full and swollen with family pride in so many ways.
Then it was time to get back to shaping memories of Maine in new and old ways; Cookie Jar donuts, nightly walks down the beach at the end of my grandma’s street where we are staying, sun porch swinging in the bouncy porch swing all the cousins fought over, frisbee tossing and tunnel exploring at Ft. Williams, my aunt’s exquisite baked haddock and homemade tartar sauce, strolling the brick sidewalks of downtown Portland and bursting with feeling so grown from how I used to be when I lived here before. A time when I was hyper-responsible to only me and my actions and choices sweated carelessness. Now my little family feels old enough to collect new tangible memories we all can remember. I can replace sadly associated places and feelings with my daughter’s boisterous laugh and re-discovering my sense of home through her experience.
Calla is one of the most independent and fiercely strong-willed kids I have met. This is one of my favorite qualities about her. This fearlessness to take on life also runs me ragged these days as we struggle through learning the balance between setting and respecting healthy limits and staying safe. I feel like that’s too pretty of a package compared to what it actually feels like when my kid rams against the boundaries we have set for her.
The favorite that’s been in rotation the most for quite awhile now is running away. In the moment she sees wide open spaces and a thrilling game of chase me. These all out sprints are awesome for my heart rate, but always in the most unsafe places; parking lots, downtown sidewalks, by the water at the beach, right next to a cliff of rocks by the ocean. My mind instantly flashes to Calla lying in the road or sinking to the bottom of a body of water and it’s so hard to translate that moment of panic into motion. I’ve just never been that fast on land.
Yesterday I sprinted three times after her. Near the ocean, at the hospital after such an awesome second visit to see Papa, and again in CVS. That disapproving glare from others in public spaces never affects me too much, but my emotional vulnerability was wide open. Calla had promised me in the car she wouldn’t run away again. My gutteral desire was to leave her in the car to allow me to grab two things and pay in peace, but she begged to join me. I set the expectation uimmediatelye that if it were to happen again that I would bring her back to the car and leave her in there while I finished. She agreed and we walked in together, her soft little hand in mine, skipping, but my arm tense and wary.
The trip in started off okay but slowly reverted to running away again once we got to the checkout line. I felt judging eyes boring into me as she flitted away and I didn’t run after her immediately, and then again when I did go after her and tried to reason. I did my best to stay calm and gave her one more chance to stay by me so I could check out and we could leave. The woman originally behind me held my space and line and indicated to go ahead. But again she ran down one of the far aisles. I placed my items on the counter, sprinted after her and picked her up to head to the car. Follow through on what I say has been a work in progress for me and I have been working hard to stay consistent. Calla kicked me hard over and over as I tried to buckle her in. I struggled to not yell. I strained to not use physical restraint in reaction to her violent frustration. Once buckled I closed the door and took a deep breath and took a minute before heading back into the store. As I got closer, the same woman in line that held my spot walked towards me and asked if she could watch my car for me while I went back in to checkout. She said she had two kids and totally understood what it was like. I thanked her very much and walked inside as I started to break down a little at the relief I always feel when another mama understands what I’m going through and chooses to hold out her hand and reach back.
In the car I cried shamelessly over the steering wheel. Because there are other people out there that understand and care like I do, but also because being a mom can just be so hard some days. Maybe I don’t cry enough in front of Calla. I want her to grow up experiencing healthy emotions and how to feel them and let them go.
Now that 3 is upon me I yearn even more intensely to deepen my village and sense of community of mamas and families I have so gratefully been led to. To trust more in myself as a mama and lean into my emotions and let them settle before reaction so I can model the same for my strongly emotional little being. I want to support her independence, preserve her wildness, but also protect her. How do you work to achieve that balance?