You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
The sensor bar for the Wii is pretty easy to dislodge from where it perches atop the TV. Em's curious fingers proved that tonight, and it came crashing down. She darted a glance at me and bent to scoop it up, and I got up to survey the damage. There was none -- I simply had to put it back in its place, and I said gently, "Em, it's not for you to touch."
Most of the time, a quiet reprimand or redirection is easy for her to handle. Often she's immune to a raised voice -- like my panicked cross between a scream and a yell when we walked outside to get in the car, like we do every day, and instead of going to her door, like she does every day, Em darted down the driveway, straight for the alley. A car was coming.
She stopped where she was, still smiling, and trotted back to me.
Tonight, her routine was missing, and she was tired, and ... well, and any other number of factors I'm not aware of. It didn't matter that I wasn't angry. It didn't matter how soft my voice was. She was undone.
Herald what your mother said
Read the books your father read
Try to solve the puzzles in your own sweet time
Sometimes I can't reach her. I can hold her in my arms and rock her while she sobs, and we occupy the same physical space, but she's in a different place entirely. And as much as I love her and as much as I want to fix it, sometimes I simply can't.
Those are the worst moments for me, when my sunny girl's composure dissolves in front of me. It usually happens in a matter of seconds. Even when I act as soon as I see her starting to melt down, mostly it's too little, too late. She's crying helplessly. She's on the floor of the mall, her limits stretched. She's pushing back against me as I try to guide her forehead onto the guide at the eye doctor. And I feel, in all those moments, like I've failed her.
A hug should fix it, right? I held her tightly tonight, thinking of Temple Grandin's hug machine. If deep input would have helped, I would have stayed on the floor for hours, soothing away the hurt. She pulled away and ran to the couch, arms flailing, red-faced, and started to jump up and down. I kept talking to her.
"I'm not mad, baby. It's okay. It's okay."
After a few minutes, she'd burned through the emotion, and she settled into her chair, eyes refocusing on Nemo swimming across the television screen. She tugged a penguin into her arms and pulled her blanket over her head.
She fixed it for herself, because I couldn't help her. The only thing I could do for her was to let her be, since she knew what she needed. As her mom, I want to give, do, be everything for her. Understanding her challenges that deep-seated need. Sometimes the best way I can love Em is to take a step back.
So I'll just wait. And I'll be here when she wants to have a dance party, burrow her head into my shoulder or just slip her still-tiny hand into mine.
All I know, all I know, love will save the day