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"But I wanted you to hold my hand!" she said through streaming tears, close to hysterics.
I had walked down the stairs from our living room to our dining room one morning after waking her up. I can't remember a morning that she didn't insist on walking down each step herself, even though my hand was always offered.
Yet, today, in my haste to start the day by opening the window shade and getting our breakfasts ready, I did not offer it. And today, she wanted my hand.
In a very uncharacteristic gesture by my almost 3 year old, she climbed into my arms. Her face wet with tears. Her voice unable to catch its breath from the emotion of it all. And in a very uncharacteristic gesture by my almost 3 year old, she let me hold her, comfort her.
For what seemed like a blissful eternity, I rocked my little girl back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Her small koala body clung to mine, legs around my torso, arms around my neck. I stroked her fine hair and held her close.
What she doesn't know is that I'd hold her every day just like this. She could ask me anytime, anywhere, and I would drop whatever I was doing to take her up into my arms and feel her warm little heart beating next to mine.
What she doesn't know is that after an atrocious day full of tantrums and harsh words, when I count down the minutes until bedtime, I miss her when she's asleep. If I knew it wouldn't wake her (and it undoubtedly would), I would crawl into her room just to peek at her sleeping. For a child so full of energy and life and passion during the day, she is surprisingly relaxed and at peace when she dreams. And though I may not be fully prepared for what the next day will bring, I am secretly excited for morning so we can meet again.
What she doesn't know is that I hate myself for the ways I fail her. The impatient clucking, the loud snap of my voice, the wrong choice of cleaning my kitchen when I could have been reading her a book. I pray she will not lack anything because of my faults and insecurities. And I hope one day she will see all the ways I worked on myself just to be better for her.
What she doesn't know, what she couldn't possibly know, is how deep my love runs for her. It courses through my veins. There is nothing I would not do, no thing I would not give up, for her. I know now, in a way I could not have known before I knew her, that love like this cannot dry up like a dusty river bed. It can only grow stronger, a raging river, with an endless source. It would be impossible to not love her.
What she doesn't know is that as time goes by, she will grow up. Dolls and blocks will be traded for cars and make up. I will spend the years grasping for her as she runs ahead, finding the delicate balance between holding on without holding her back. I know she will grow up. And she will be beautiful and confidant and wonderful. And I will miss her littleness.
One day I will look back and wonder why I thought it was so hard, oh so long ago, to raise this child. And I will vow to myself that if I had the chance, I would do it all over again. Every minute.
So today, I hold this little babe, rocking her back and forth, back and forth. I do not take for granted this moment of prolonged comfort: I snuggle her into my neck, breathe in her scent, and lock the memory of her deep in my heart.
Because what she doesn't know is that, no matter how many years go by, no matter how old she grows, she will always be my precious little girl.
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