My hand slid over the door handle as I pulled on it to close the door tightly, shutting behind it protests from a three year old who did not want to go to bed.
I was exhausted from the drama that played out every night and then again in the morning when we asked her to put on a simple pair of underwear.
Holding the door open just a crack I reminded her that I would leave the door open the whole way if she sat on her bed and tried to sleep. I sighed heavily to myself and prayed that she found herself back to her bed quickly.
Checking the clock I could see that we were already 45 minutes past bedtime and I was almost ready to call it a night myself.
“NO!” She screamed with a fierce determination that reminded me of myself, “you’re naughty!”
Her insult, however adorable, squeezed the last bit of patience from me and I shut the door, leaving her for a minute to think about whether she wanted to sit at the base of the door or be in her bed with the door open and the hall light on.
“Go To BED!” I yelled, certain my mind would explode.
Her cries grew louder as she banged her door.
“I don’t love you anymore!”
The knife was big and it went directly into my heart, I was thrown backwards and clenched my chest for effect, and looked at Brian who was waiting at the end of the hall.
We both stared at one another.
She’d never said anything like that before.
Knowing that she didn’t know the power of her words didn’t make what she’d said any less painful.
I remembered saying the very same words to my mother and now wished I could take them back. The sting crossed my body a million times over.
Reaching for her doorknob I opened it slowly and stepped inside.
I walked towards my crying daughter and scooped her up into my arms tossing away what the parenting books said, throwing out what experts report, and just followed my instincts.
My daughter needed to feel love and I wanted to give it to her.
I cradled her in my arms while her long, almost 4 year old legs draped over my arms.
Swaying back and forth I told her I loved her and hummed softly while I scratched her back.
Her tears melted away.
The tension left the room.
Slowly she drifted off to sleep and left me with an important lesson.
She’s still learning and is learning from me.
Every day I have the chance to teach her how to be a generous, patient, giving person. What a gift.
I make mistakes but have the opportunity to right them.
And that day I did.