She had a hard day at school, and then, before bed, when she took way too long in the bathroom, I got frustrated with her. I hurried her along, sighed, and rolled my eyes. That little bit, devastated her.
Another time, I was mad. She cowered away from me, saying, "I'm afraid you're going to hit me or say mean things!"
I responded, "Riley, when do I ever hit you?"
"And when do I say mean things?"
She whimpered, "One time you told me.... to.... shut my mouth."
The self loathing is thick here. It feels like there is no room for error.
She is a teacher of unconditional love.
I used to think that meant, unconditional love for her, despite her "difference." And I do love my girl. But sometimes I'm tired. Sometimes I just don't have much patience.
What I'm starting to understand is that the real work is unconditional self love, even though I'm not perfect, and even though I can't make everything okay for this child I love so much.
It looks like a giant mountain from where I stand. My imperfections contribute to her pain.
And before you tell me I need to get over it, consider whether your eight year old has ever seriously expressed wishing they were never born.
Little love, thank you for existing. Together we go up the mountain, one step at a time. Because of you I've seen glimpses of the top, and it is beautiful.