Monday, May 13, 2013

Reach Out

When life gets hectic, I always have Claire.

 A placid, congenial, and helpful child, she is a soothing contrast to my ruffled feathers, reminding me with her six year old example to slow down, hug often, and smile.

This is my kid who mid-dinner will make eye contact with me, put her hand over mine, and ask, "Mommy.  How's the hearing going?"

She is genuinely concerned for others' happiness, and should I hear a beep or a whistle and Claire picks up on it, she'll nod with enthusiasm.

"Very GOOD hearing, Mommy!  You're doing good!"

It fills my heart every time.

Having grown accustomed to her steadiness, I've been thrown for a loop with her sudden change in behavior.

As of Thursday, her joyful glow has dimmed, replacing her bright-eyed laugh with tears, anxiety, and worry.  She is crying everywhere, each time offering a different explanation as to why she is so stressed.

She misses me.  She misses her Dad.  She misses her grandmother.  She misses her friend from pre-K.  School is too loud.   A friend is grumpy.  A friend was absent.  Sometimes kids at school don't behave. 

And there was that moment on Saturday, through crazy curls and streaming tears: "Mommy.  I'm just EXHAUSTED.  I'm. Burnt. Out!"


It's hard to watch my baby suffer with such angst.  Considering the varied explanations, I'm lost as to what momentarily stole her sunshine.  I've talked with her teachers, with her babysitter, with our family, and we all have our theories as to what is weighing so heavily on Claire's little shoulders.  In the end, we each offer the same conclusion: It's just a phase.

And I believe that.

Still, I found myself in a text exchange with her teacher, offering this insight: "I feel for her always trying to be the good girl.  She feels this tremendous responsibility not to let others down."

Before I pressed SEND, I paused.

I might as well have been talking about me-- always trying to make sure I'm not an inconvenience or a disappointment.  I thought of how I put pressure on myself to make a strong first impression, work harder so others work easier, possibly overcompensating because I don't want my struggles to be spotlighted. 

It's easy to feel lost when you're alone, and maybe Claire started to realize this. Yesterday, she offered an idea to remedy her worries:

When she gets sad, her big brother could comfort her.


Don't get me wrong-- I love my son, and he has many wonderful qualities.  Displaying empathy, however, is not his strong suit.  He's a cool nine year old, a jock, a BOY... you think he wants to kneel down and wipe the tears of his little sister, especially in front of the other kids at school

Still, I believed in him, and saw Claire's proposal as a leadership opportunity.

Colin, help your sister.  Be there for her.  Comfort her.  First and foremost, have her back.

This morning I dropped the kids off to school and as they walked toward the entrance, the signs were there.  Claire's eyes grew watery; her shoulders began shaking.

I watched her reach out for her brother; he acted like her hand wasn't there.  She tried again; he looked away.  On Claire's third attempt, I watched as he reached down and grabbed her small kindergarten hand. 

With his back to me, he couldn't see how proud I was.

Sometimes we need certain someones to have our backs.  I don't have a big brother, but I have several fill-ins for the role.  These men (and women) have become mentors in my life,  allowing me to be my most vulnerable self and accepting me just the same.  They encourage me to see challenges as opportunities, to "stay the course," to relish in adversity.   It can be tough to put ourselves out there and admit confusion as to what to do next, but I've learned it's way tougher to get through those moments alone. 

Claire will be fine.  I will be fine.  We are lucky to have the strength to reach out to others, to embrace their wisdom, and to learn from their journeys.

We'll pick ourselves up and move forward, stronger and brighter than before.


  1. How very sweet! I've never met Claire, but I feel love for your daughter. Colin, too, but don't tell him I said that!

    1. Thank you. They are good little teachers. I learn much about myself through watching them.

  2. What a heartfelt post. I loved reading it.
    I have an 11 year-old son who is very sensitive as well and goes through phases... and I have to remind myself that we are going to be alright - which is not always easy...
    (visiting from ippp)

    1. Thank you Kerstin. It's hard to see a child go through difficulties, and also struggle with articulating why. Luckily, my firstborn has better prepared me for the phases. I've often worked myself up to the point I think my son is doomed, and suddenly, the next phase emerges.

      But I still struggle with understanding this for myself. I have phases too, and need reminders of all I've conquered to realize more triumphs are ahead. You're right: it's not easy.

  3. What a smart girl you have there to be able to reach out for the help she knows she needs when she needs it. That kind of strength is certainly learned through a powerful example. Good on you!

    1. A part of me just wants to thank you for being so kind, but it doesn't feel authentic. The truth is I don't know if I'm the best example when it comes to asking for help. I tend to be an "I'll just do it myself" kind of girl, or an "I don't want to burden other people" person. If I DO ask for assistance, it's usually in the form of screaming at my husband! Something to think about, and something to work on. Thank you.

  4. I love it when siblings support each other. I think that feeling is always there, way down deep inside, but all the sibling picking and fighting covers it up. My girls had one of those moments this weekend - my middle girl was upset about something and my oldest actually comforted her. It was so sweet - and surprising :) Your girl (and you) will get through this phase! My oldest is a generally drama-free positive attitude kind of girl, but she's gone through some of those phases over the years!

    Also, this is my first visit to your blog (came from #iPPP) and I just need to say that you and your daughter are beautiful!

    1. The phase continues in my household, and I've been driving myself crazy listing reasons for all the tears. Then I think back to when I was a kid; there were moments I cried but didn't necessarily have an explanation. It passed and was soon forgotten.

      Chances are my daughter will move on and forget this whole period. But I won't soon forget that moment her big brother stepped up. It was an awesome mom moment.

      Thanks for visiting!

  5. I had two big brothers, and even though they loved to tease me and play tricks on me, they always had my back. Always. Those pictures are so sweet, all of them! My daughter is sensitive, too (she's almost six), so I can relate so much to this. And I absolutely love that she's your little hearing cheerleader! Thanks for linking up with us!

    1. The hearing cheerleader in her is THE BEST, especially when I worried for so long I would somehow embarrass my children because of my hearing loss.

      Quick story: About a month after my surgery, the whole family got in the car and as we pulled out of our driveway, I kept hearing this series of beeps. I had no idea what it signified, and wondered if the car was malfunctioning. No-- there was a problem with ME; I hadn't fastened my seat belt yet. Claire acted like I won an Oscar. From the backseat in her little high pitch voice, "GOOD HEARING MOMMY! THAT'S GREAT! I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT!"

      I am blessed with her compassion and joy, and that makes it all the more difficult to see her struggling.

      Thank you for visiting and I am so grateful to have come across your blog. Your writing is beautiful and brave. I can't wait to read more!

  6. I love that you recognized yourself in your daughter. We are so closely knitted together no? I have done just what you did a time (or several hundred) with my children. No doubt, with your you by her side, Claire will find what she needs and get back her sunshine. xo.

    1. Thank you. Recognizing myself in my daughter (and son) is a daily occurrence. Sometimes it's a moment of "Aww, they're just like me." And other times, it's a "Crap. They're. just. like. me." Either way, a learning and strengthening experience, for sure. Thanks for visiting, Sarah.

  7. Hi,

    My name is John and I have a quick question about your blog! Could you please email me?

    Thank you,


  8. Your photos heartwarming and post heart melting. I'm so happy this was the first post I read today! Stopping by from #ippp

    1. So sweet of you. I'm happy it was your first read too, and thanks for the #ippp love! Please visit again.

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