So, remember when I told you that Sophia was fine? I seem to have spoken too soon.
She's edgy and emotional, bursting into tears over issues like the "thank you" bite she's required to try at dinner. She doesn't want to go to school. She fights with her brothers, which is frankly not that unusual with the 13-year-old, but bewildering with the 19-year-old. And in the middle of the night she bellows into the dark, reciting her side of scary dreams that she doesn't remember in the morning.
All of that sounds pretty grim, but I suppose it could easily just be the pressures on a five-year-old who is realizing that life can be a little battering and school just. keeps. happening. There is, of course, that pause. That frisson of fear that something truly dark has dripped into her life, into her heart.
I hate the pause. I don't know if it's worse because she's a girl, or because she's gone, in the watch of others, all day. But it's worse, and I hate the pause.
For what it's worth (I wish I knew what it's worth), I don't think it's anything more than too many stresses at once. Sick and then sicker, followed by hurt and then hurt worse. She's weary. She's the one who needs a vacation. Or something.
Today was a beautiful, sunny day. After school, Sophia begged again to play on the playground. I reached out and hooked a finger through the loop on top of her backpack, and waved her away. She ran off, her hair a cloud around her bobbing head.
I found a spot with a huddle of moms on the side, and tried not to watch Sophia too closely. She dashed back and forth with her friends, shrieking in delighted fear during tag. And every few minutes she was back at the monkey bars, one hand on the bar above her, the other wrapped tightly around the safe bar next to her. She would lean out, testing her weight on her toes, and look down the row of bars. Then she'd tip back onto her heels, turn, and run.
I thought about the day she got hurt. She fell, and then she scrambled back up and tried again. She fell again, back up. Again. Again. At some point she faltered, turned to me and asked, "What if I fall?"
"Then you'll get up and try again," I said. And minutes later I was holding her and watching her fight for air and some way to comprehend all the pain.
It was just a fall, just a playground fall, with no permanent harm done. But life, it's full of unexpected falls. And not all of them have happy endings. This is the bar I am testing my hand on - is it my job here to urge her on toward greater potential pain? Or am I supposed to hold her back, safe and able to breathe? All I want is her life to always be full enough to light her up, yet never hit hr so hard that it extinguishes the light in her eyes.
After several passes by the monkey bars, I caught her eye. She balanced there and looked back at me. I moved over into place next to her, right next to her. Within arm's reach.
"Go ahead," I said, nodding at the bars.
"What if I fall?"
"Then I'll catch you. And eventually, you'll figure out how to fall without getting hurt again. Go ahead."
She leaned forward, paused, pulled back. Looked at me...
...and swung out into the air.