I had a diving coach in college who once told me that you could never cry for longer than you could shower. Why? Because you could simply stay in there until you got it together.
I’m in the shower with my girl. She is crying.
Our evening has been a mess. Despite a few bright moments, she has continually defaulted back to this place. Time and again, her face has melted into a mask of Greek tragedy. She is desperately overwhelmed.
She can’t tell me how I can help her. She doesn’t have the words for how she feels or what she needs. Any and every attempt that I make to communicate with her – to connect with her in any way – fans the flames. I keep trying, then retreating. Trying, then retreating.
For the life of me, I don’t know how to make this better.
And there it is.
“For the life of me, I don’t know how to make this better.”
The very crux of why this is so God-damned hard.
Because. I. Can’t. Fix. It.
As a mother I am designed down to a cellular level to protect my girls. I feel it in my pores. Somewhere in my DNA is the primal code for taking care of my babies – for keeping them from harm. For slaying their demons and keeping that which would hurt them at bay – then for giving them the tools as they grow to manage for themselves. That’s not just my job as a mother; it is who I am. It is who I was born to be.
This betrays the perfection of the system. It lays my weakness bare, leaving no room for the illusion of the infallibility of motherhood. So much for Mama kisses that make it all better. No one in this house buys that story any more.
My girl is yelling through her sobs. No matter how hard she tries now, she simply cannot keep it together.
I rattle my saber. I try to look tough. But my girl and I both know that all I can do is swing wildly against an opponent that I can’t see, can’t touch, can’t even accurately describe.
And worse, he doesn’t come alone. He travels with his brothers – Anxiety, Panic and Fear. They are like some nightmarish minstrel show.
I want to scream as my baby screams. I want to slather on war paint, lay these suckers out, then walk away saying, ‘Yeah, that’s right, you messed with the wrong Mama Bear.”
But really, at the end of the day – at the end of this day, I can’t. There is Nothing. I. Can. Do.
She screams again. “I want to go to sleep.”
There’s nothing left but to shut the world down.
We hurry out of the shower and into her room. I lay with her in bed. I ask her what I always do.
“What would Mama do for you?”
Her voice is tiny. She is exhausted. “Anything.”
“And what wouldn’t Mama do for you?”
I kiss my girl as many times as she’ll let me, then leave her to sleep.
I linger in her doorway and take one more look at my sweet girl.
I pull the door closed, praying that simply knowing that her Mama would if she could can be enough.