Gleek entered the kitchen with a purposeful stalk. I worried that somehow the play with friends had gone wrong and she was angry.
She looked at me, and her face transformed into calm interest. “Just thirsty.” She answered.
I watched her grab her cup and fill it with water. Her hair was windblown, but not rat’s nest tangled. Her clothes marked with the evidence of today’s play and stains from games past. Her calm and confident manner of drinking struck me.
In that moment it was as if a film was stripped from my eyes. My brain was stripped bare of all the speculations of how today’s behaviors will impact her future. All the parental responsibility and worry peeled off. With a sudden and clear sharpness, I suddenly saw Gleek not as a child who needs to be nurtured into an adult, but as a person with a whole personality and existence right now. I really saw her with her oval face and bright eyes startlingly dark compared to her light hair.
She finished her drink and turned to leave.
“Hey.” I said putting my hand out to forestall her departure.
She turned back. And I explained “I think I need a hug.” Gleek tipped her head to the side and then jumped into my arms to give me a Monkey hug with both arms and legs. I held her tight and breathed the scent of her. Then she jumped down and dashed back outside to her friends.
I trailed after and watched for a moment out the window. I tried to find words to encapsulate the wordless gestalt I had in that moment of clarity. My child’s worth is not measured by her future. She is priceless now. Had someone told me this, I would have nodded and said “of course.” It was quite different to have the wordless knowledge resonate through me. To know that I must fully love this person for who she is, despite my ongoing responsibility to help her grow. It is a hard thing. Because in the moment I love a child fully as they are, I am always struck by the knowledge that this person I love will be gone in a year. The nine year old Gleek will be replaced by a 10 year old who will be much the same, but also different. In my heart I hold a small measure of grief for the toddler Gleek who is forever gone.
And so I need to repeat and elaborate upon the statement I made before.
My child’s worth is not measured by her future or her past. It is separate from my hopes and fears. She is priceless just as she is.
I want to sear the words into my brain so that I will not forget. And I need to apply the same statement not only to all of my children, but to all people. My love should not be contingent or come with expectations attached. It is a frightening and beautiful thought. I shall endeavor to try.