I video chatted with my daughter last night, and she was teary-eyed, seeming so much smaller than I know she is with her eyes wide and upset, taking up half the screen. She was blubbering because the battery was dying on a beloved Olaf stuffed animal. (Olaf is the snowman from Frozen.) That piqued my motherly intuition the moment I heard it. I didn’t even know she had an obsession with Olaf. And if I don’t even know about this stuffed animal, then it can’t be worth crying over.
I was already tired and had summoned every ounce of patience I had left. My bathtub pipe was leaking catastrophically after it was “fixed”. It had flooded through the ceiling over my kitchen table, making my kitchen a slosh-zone. My significant other and I’d had a disagreement. (I hate those.) My co-parent had already called me over because he didn’t know what to do with the diminishing morale about virtual school, and I’d brought donuts to get a few smiles. I didn’t get a job that I knew I’d nailed the interview for. (Authors need insurance, too.) And I had been afflicted with stomach cramps all evening. So, for context, I was done with the day.
I reassured my daughter that we would fix the stuffed animal. Then, she started wailing that it didn’t have a seam near the button for the sound. I asked her where the seams were, and she told me there was one in its head and one on its bottom. Before I knew it, I was agreeing to give a colonoscopy to a stuffed snowman to replace batteries that are probably non-standard and need to be ordered.
But I still knew that wouldn’t normally upset my cheerful girl. My daughter is a force of optimism and confidence. So, I asked her, “What else happened today? Was it a good day?” And then she launched into the real problems. My children were issued school laptops long after their peers and were behind in virtual school at a new school, and she was positively petrified about French and the “jibber-jabber” she couldn’t interpret. Launching into a new language three weeks behind everyone else would be enough to shake anyone, so we talked it through and made a plan. I had the perfect anecdote about a time that I thought I would fail Latin, and the tears abated.
I find myself upset sometimes, too, with seemingly minor triggers. But those are often only the last thing added to the mountain of stressors upsetting me. After I disconnected our chat, I was mulling over the hellish weeks I thought I would fail Latin when I was fifteen. And then I thought about the anxiety and PTSD that let me see she wasn’t crying over Olaf. Both the anxiety and the Latin class seemed impossible to me and without meaning or purpose when I endured them. As my tiny daughter asked me last night, “Why is life so hard?” I thought back to myself, panicking in the closet earlier in the day, asking my significant other, “What did I do to deserve this?”
And the challenges I overcame seemed to have meaning as I guided my daughter through her own fear and stress. If you do make it through hell, you’re a lot better at going back and guiding those you love out.
I’m raising a giant cup of coffee to all of you this morning. She’s going to conquer French, and I’m writing more on Iron Spirits. Let’s continue our march out of hell today.