She’d been asking for months, begging in that personal way a mother knows is different from the plead that accompanies a chocolate, a third marshmallow, another plastic toy from a store shelf.
Animals make a deep corner of her soul come alive, affording her the experience of Nurturer and Protector she so naturally embodies. Hers was a longing that would satiate a basic but deep need, instead of one which was fleeting, discarded as soon as we moved on from the toy shop, the marshmallow bag, the chocolate basket.
“Mum, there’s something inside me that feels a bit strange,” she said yesterday, cuddling our new chicks and looking down at them with a look I understood on a visceral level.
“I just feel really funny inside”, she confirmed.
I took in her face and knew at once what she was attempting to express.
“Honey, you love the chicks so much, don’t you?” I asked.
“Yes, I really do”, she replied.
“And because you love them so much, you’re afraid that something might happen to them, aren’t you?”
“Yes”, she said. “Like I feel like I just don’t want to leave them alone.”
“I know, honey. That’s called worry. Sometimes worry is a part of love. We love something so much, we worry about something happening to it, because then we would be so sad.”
“Yes, mum. It’s worry. I think I’m worried because I just love them.”
It was like watching my daughter become a mother; an overwhelming sense of love for something outside oneself, coupled with the shocking fragility of realising you can’t ever fully guard it, leaving you vulnerable to the greatest of pain and loss.
It was the first time I saw her grasp the complexities of adult-like feelings, which are never really just one, but several feelings rolled in and around each other like a ball of tangled twine. The good feelings of love are often wrapped up in the uncomfortable feelings of fear, at least initially anyway, and it’s important to be able to identify each in order to pry them from each other and put them each in their appropriate heart corner.
I let her sit with her feelings for a while, processing how it felt to worry, until I said, “Honey, it’s okay to be worried. Worry just tells you that you love something. But instead of worry, sometimes it’s better to focus on the love part – like, how can you love the chicks even better? Could you check their water more and make sure they are never thirsty? Could you cuddle them with a lot of softness? What are some ways you could love them more fully?”
She thought for a minute and said, “Well, I could find little blankets for them so they are never cold?”
I had to laugh. Those tiny chickens saw us coming and had no idea what was about to hit them. I’m quite sure Ella will ask me next if I can knit them each a beanie for their heads.
Anyway, I thought to myself how the spontaneous lessons which spring up in the life we share with our children are also take-home for us; that while I worry about bigger things, the concept and the outcome is essentially the same — I worry because I love // To combat worry, love more fully.
So, we take in more deeply that which we love. We notice more. We’re more intentional. This makes us more grateful. Which makes us love better and more fully.
And with that, we wrapped up our little moment and I watched as she snuggled Rosie, Sunshine and Dashie into blankets and pushed them around in her miniature doll’s pram.
I love my girl and her tender mother heart so very much.
It’s so easy to not do anything differently: not try anything new. Buying eggs from the shop might be cheaper (I don’t know, is it?) and more convenienient than setting up coops and buying heat lamps and dealing with chicken poo and going through the hassle of taking the long route home just to stop in and pick up more chicken feed. (Me, me, me!)
But I’m learning that we make choices not based on the amount of effort required but on who we become by making them: Because of the experiences, conversations, learning and memories they open us up to.
And most important of all, we make choices based on who our children are – following their leads of love and passion and giving them that wonderful sense of “this is me” as we validate their interests and natural tendencies.
And my girl?
My girl loves her animals.
(Billy however, is learning other vital life lessons such as how gravity works and how baby chicks, though appearing like they are up for a good time, do not like much to be dropped from great heights and screamed at to “FLY!”. Our boy, while mostly so tender with them, also errs on the side of mischief, and we make room for this, too.) (Mostly outside.) (As in, sending him out there.) (With some sticks to swing around.)
We each have our different happy places, folks!
Wishing you a lovely week!