April 11, 2016
I have a little girl I adore more than I can say. Her bright curls cage the sun, and her vivacity and unique approach to life captures my heart.
As with all of my children, I pour love into her cup each morning, pour until it overflows and spills to puddles at her feet. Most days, she leaves the cup on the counter and goes about her day. I set the cup aside, clean it for use when she comes home. When she returns, I reach for her, long to embrace my growing beauty, but she stiffens and dodges. “Oh, Mother,” she says.
“I love you,” I tell her. I write the words in notes and unanswered texts. I end every conversation with the words that consume my heart. “I love you, my daughter.”
Her silence crackles like an aneurism. It digs a gulf in my heart, and the love I feel rushes to fill the wound until it swells, a flooding river. “I love you,” I show with little gestures. A favorite meal. Extra time listening. Brownies after bedtime. In larger ways, I demonstrate. My time is hers. My time belongs to my children. My time is not my own.
Still, it’s not enough to warrant a response from my gal. The gestures are taken for granted I suppose. I cannot give enough to satisfy some deep need in this precious human. She’s experienced trauma in her life, and she’s grown introverted, insulates herself from emotion. Like a cat who shies from contact, she chooses when to interact. I wait for her. I follow her cues and search for keys to open doors locked within her.
The reward for the trials of parenting is often a simple “I love you” in word or gesture. My little lady seems unable to feel for me as I do for her. She withholds displays of affection. I cling to any time we spend together, no matter how insignificant, as an affirmation that she cares. During times of sad introspection, though, I question my optimistic interpretation. I doubt I matter.
Biblically speaking, the father held a feast when his prodigal son returned. He never gave up on his child. A parent is incapable of giving up on a child. I never will, though my child’s silence weighs upon my every thought like a deluge dragging me under. Her interaction would be my life preserver, her words oxygen.
A parent should provide a safe place for her children, a haven from the storms of life. Wrapped in that surety, loved kids grow into strong, loving adults. My efforts fall short of scaling the walls she’s built around herself. I don’t know how to break through or breech her fortifications. My pervasive feeling is in her life, I truly fail to matter.
When I consider the matter, I worry I may never re-meet the sweet child who left me notes and sang me songs, the girl who turned to me for comfort and magic kisses that healed little wounds. That demonstrative child might be buried deep in the emotional insulation when her injuries required more than a bandage and boo-boo bunny. Or she may claw through one day, kick aside this shell she’s hunkered down in to protect her heart.
In any case, I’m here, filling her cup, trying every key I encounter, tidying our haven, and doing my best to share my love with her.
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