I stood in front of her, knelt to her level, eye to eye, for as much as she could look at me. Her eyes darted over my shoulder, down to the floor, back to mine, again and again. Her eyes fluttered, watered, welled up and tears dripped down her cheek. She held two seconds of a gaze with me, and then darted away again.
And I realized, she is just as lost and confused as me.
She turned her back to me as I moved closer. In a final act of giving-up-without-giving-up, in a moment of there’s nothing I can say anymore, I’m too tired, too defeated, too exhausted, I hugged her.
As she struggled against my arms, I held on, firm, but gentle. I love you, I repeated, quietly. She spat, I don’t like you, over her shoulder, and asked me to let her go.
I love you, and nothing you can do or say can change that.
I love you.
And I let her go.
Because, this isn’t my battle.
I’m a casualty of a war that’s happening all on her own. Figuring out who you are, what you will stand for, who you will let in and who you will not, these are all big things to decide, to learn about yourself.
Waiting for her to come out the other side, giving her the freedom to make mistakes, to say the harsh words, to live out-loud and to feel the consequences of her tongue and actions, this is my battle. But it’s not against her, it’s against myself and my own desire to step in and make her obey.
And, as I’ve been processing here for the past two months now, I know that if I want a relationship with her someday, I have to have the restraint to let her figure large stretches of life, of being herself, on her own.
I have to confess, I feel her pain. Not as a mother who remembers what it was like to be a lost little girl, but as a woman who still struggles sometimes against her own heavenly parent.
In hugging my daughter, refusing to let go, I felt arms around me too. Very real, very firm. Comforting, enough that I began to cry as well.
Despite my own internal struggles, my own moments where I’m the one spitting selfish words over my shoulder or turning my back just enough to make it sting, I too am loved more deeply than I can understand. And I’m thankful that God approaches us as a parent to a child, and not just as some great celestial blob in the sky who is indifferent to our concerns. I am thankful.
My daughter crossed the room and stood by a window, in the last silvery light of a long winter’s day. She did not say anything, just shifted her weight and watched me, still kneeling on the floor, wiping my eyes and breathing.
You’ll never outgrow it, were the words I did not say. You’ll always need it, the love that accepts you as you are, that finds you when you’re lost and kneels down to meet you eye to eye. The love that levels you, stops you, reminds you, above all other things, that you are safe and you can let every other battle go.
Those were the words that I did not say.
I stood and wiped my tear-dampened hands on my skirt and I walked out.
Minutes later, she came and sat beside me on the couch. She let me bring her a small plate of chips and hummus.
We shared a blanket.
And I thought, love isn’t always quiet, but when it is, it’s close.
Close and quiet, love is in the arms ever-holding. Close and quiet, love is in the words unspoken.