Today M. was sad, tired, weepy, irritated. I wanted so badly to stay calm, to not get angry. So I tried preaching instead, gently of course, leaning in too close, commanding in my fake calm voice that she could choose a different attitude, could choose gratitude and joy. Which may on some basic psychological level be true, but which, if I’m honest with myself, has almost never been true for me. When I am grouchy or angry or sullen, I have never managed to switch over to joy and equanimity because someone leaned in close and demanded that I do it. Even if I were capable of making such a choice in that moment, I surely wouldn’t want to, because when you’re mad at the world, what you want most is to be mad at the world. You’re not interested in techniques for snapping out of it. You want to wallow in it. And what I need to learn as a mother is to give my girls the space to be who they are, to feel all the big emotions that swamp them, to stand nearby and nod with understanding, maybe, or bring tissues or chocolate or whatever it is that I wish people would do for me when I’m sinking under those unnameable currents. And maybe if I’d stop preaching, advising, scolding, I’d be able to see who M. is each moment, what she needs, what she’s afraid of, what complex tangle of factors has brought her to this moment and this state of sadness. Forgive me, Daughter, for trying to fix you, you who are not broken, you who are connected to divinity in ways I cannot see.

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