Katie and I are sitting on the bench outside the ice cream shop, greedily devouring our ice creams. We’ve asked Brooke to join us, but she refused, instead doing exactly what she always does when we come here – pacing the sidewalk and periodically finding comfort in the tight entryway of the shop next door.
Katie’s not happy.
When I ask why the long face, she says, “Cause I just want to hang out with my sister.”
I tell her that’s very sweet, then point out that she IS hanging out with her sister.
“No, Mama, she says, I want to REALLY hang out with her. Like ya know, over HERE, all together. I just want to love her, ya know.”
I put my arm around her and squeeze, wondering how it is that such a huge heart can inhabit such a small person. And then I tell her the very hardest lesson that her Mama’s had to learn. “Katie,” I say, “we’ve talked about this before. Sometimes the greatest gift that we can give to those we love is to love them in the way that they need to be loved, rather than in the way that we may feel like we need to love them. Right now, showing our love for Brooke means respecting the fact that she’s doing what makes her happy and being here with her while she does it. Does that make sense?”
She nods, then says something. But not to me – to her sister. “Hey Brooke, do you want to come over here with me and Mama or stay over there?”
Brooke answers in her signature sing-song, “Well, I would do whatever I want.”
Katie smiles back at her. “OK, Brooke, as long as you’re happy there, but come over if you want OK?”
She looks at me, “I wasn’t trying to pressure her, Mama, I promise. I just wanted to make sure that she knew that we wanted her here and she has the choice.”
I smile at my girl. “And that,” I tell her, “is the best kind of lovin’ there is.”