Your voice is high and loud, filling the space between us.
“Shh,” I say. “I’m right here.”
You stomp your feet, cross your arms, whine and hmmp and pfft. You’re teetering on the edge of a meltdown and it’s my move.
I pull you into my lap. You resist at first but I know it’s your favorite place to be and soon you are tucking in your knees and curling into me. I wrap my arms around you, run my fingers through your curls and lean my head into yours. I’m on your side. I explain again my reason for telling you no. And then I brace myself.
You have never been good at this, at accepting no, and nearly six years into it, I’m still perfecting my approach, my comeback, my own way of dealing with it.
When I was pregnant with you and we found out we were having a girl, I expected my daughter to be more like me — quiet, calm, easygoing — but almost from the beginning I knew you were different. You had a kind of fire that I lack — the sparks of which usually captivate me and leave me in awe; the roots of which I now know stem from heightened sensitivity and a tenuous control of emotion and just because. It’s how you’re built, how your wires cross and intertwine.
Now I can feel you crumbling and so I lock my eyes on to yours and your lip begins to quiver, and I acknowledge how very difficult it is to hear no and how you feel like your whole world is tumbling down in that instant and nothing will ever be right again and it’s my fault. I’m the one to blame.
It took me some trial and error to get here, but I understand that if I just hold you and let you release it (resisting the urge to remind you of your sleeping brothers in the next room), we will have won the battle.
And we do. We win because you calmed yourself down and accepted my answer, but also because I believe that whatever walls we build, we will tear them down together (because I’m your mommy and I said so).