BetsyLee

The parenting plunge

Experiencing life alongside little humans is a constant education.

First, you learn what love can feel like.

Then, you learn just how little sleep you need.

Later still, you learn the power of patience.

But, for me, the most harrowing lesson is learning how — and when — to be quiet.

I should back up and say that I’m a communicator.

To me, talking means closeness.

Sharing means conversation.

And a loving relationship means letting people fully inside your inner world.

My eldest child is cut from the same cloth.

To us, closeness means a good, long chat.

When I share my past experiences, good or not-so-good, he hangs on every word. And when he talks about his thoughts or ideas, I’m all ears.

But when I talked with my second child, she’d get tired quickly. She’d deflect conversation with giggles or simply by walking away.

When I’d try to share an important thought, more often than not, she’d simply stare at me — leaving me second-guessing my impact.

It worried me.

Because I adore her. When I look into the future, I long for giggles about boyfriends, new relationship analysis, mother-daughter chats — heck, even mother-daughter arguments.

I wanted my daughter to want to talk.

Then, one day, she came home tired from a sleepover. Now, for this child, fatigue is like Kryptonite. She just can’t hang.

By the evening, some circumstance or another made her so overwrought that she couldn’t speak. Tears streamed down her face. Her arms flapped about like a toddler in a tantrum.

I tried to gather her in my arms.

“What’s wrong? Are you hurting? What do you need? Do you want a hug?”

I peppered her with questions.

No response.

Then, I just sat.

And, eventually, she sat too.

She leaned her head on my shoulder.

“I love you,” I said.

She stiffened.

I felt her body get tighter — not because she didn’t want to hear those words, but because it wasn’t the time for them.

It was time for quiet.

It was shatteringly clear.

She needed silence.

In that moment, I realized I’d spent the first eight years of my daughter’s life trying to make her act like me. Trying to create closeness based solely on my understanding of it.

And, I realized, that through this child, I could learn.

I could be quiet and appreciate silence.

I could explore love in noiseless co-existence.

In her head, resting in my lap.

And in my fingers stroking her hair.

I could love my daughter.

Just being there.

And by not saying a word.

It’s a lesson I’ll likely learn again and again.

But, without a doubt, we’re worth it.