My little ballerina is constantly twisting and turning, using the correct names for each of her newly learned moves (minus the "r" sound of course). She's usually so happy after her dance class and tells me all about the things she's learning, promising that someday I will get to see her perform, but not until recital time. She gets all giggly and evasive when I ask what her dance looks like. It's a game we play. But not tonight. Tonight she wasn't my 6-year-old, giggling ballerina. Tonight she was broken.
As Morgan left her class tonight, I noticed the cloud over her eyes. I saw that telltale sign that the big one was coming. Sure enough, we barely made it to the van when the tears started. This is how she operates within her grief. She gets whiny and seems very tired for several weeks and then the explosion happens. She started by complaining that the dance had changed again and that she just wanted to finish it so she could practice the whole thing because she was so afraid of messing up on the stage. I reassured her that I don't watch her do things to make sure she does them "correctly." I told her that I watch her because I like to see her experiencing life and enjoying it. I added that I felt extremely lucky to be able to witness those things. That's when the pain became too much to bear:
"Mommy!! I am NOT lucky all the time. I just keep losing things! Important things!!"
I have an idea where this is going at this point, but I don't want to assume so I try a different angle.
"Well, Morgan, everyone has to learn responsibility and taking care of our toys and things so that we don't lose them."
"You don't understand what I'm saying, Mommy. I don't care about my stupid toys..."
This is where the Mom I used to be would tell her that we don't say stupid, but I know this is not one of those conversations where I get to be Mom. What good is Mom in this situation anyway? Mom is someone who fixes the problem, right? There is no fix here. Mom is unnecessary. Instead, Compassionate Listener takes a turn. So I play..."Ok, what have you lost then?"
"I am NOT saying it out loud."
"Your brother." It isn't a question. It doesn't need to be. It's a statement that says, "me too."
"YES!! THIS ISN'T FAIR, MOMMY!! I HATE THIS!! Why do all my friends have their brothers and I don't?? What did I do wrong? I. WANT. HIM. BACK."
Again, not a question. Because guess what? It isn't a request. It is a demand. She wants him back. NOW. And I should give him to her. She's right. And I know it.
So, I do the only thing I know to do. I hug her and thank her for being my daughter. I tell her how grateful I am that her healthy, capable little body can do the most beautiful "piwowette" I've ever seen. I thank her for crying with me. I thank her for sharing with me.
"Do I look like you, Mommy?"
"Yes, Baby. You look very much like Mommy."
"Do I act like you, Mommy?"
"Sometimes you do."
"I...I want to look like you...I want to act like you, because...Mommy?...Didn't Beastie look like you?"
"Yes, Baby. He did."
"Well, I want to look like him. I want to be like him."
"Oh, Baby. Nothing makes me happier than looking at your face, because I see him there. No one on the planet looks more like him than you do. But you know what? I'm so grateful that you're my Morgan, because she's a pretty fantastic little girl all by herself. And do you know what makes you just like your brother?"
"My curly hair?....because it's gone...(tears)"
"No, Baby. It's your big, beautiful heart. And that will never go away."
When did being Mom become so painful? I can't take her pain away. That should stop when you've lost the ability to help even one of your children. There shouldn't be any more tough questions or unanswerable moments. But there are. Life doesn't care what you think should be happening. Life just happens. And it's hard and it's ugly, but every once in awhile the thing that is missing is actually what makes it worth living. I would have never known how much more beautiful a pirouette could be...especially without the "r".