This morning was a bit of a tough one.
Getting ready for kinder, everything was normal. Owen climbing through pillows on our freshly-made bed, and demanding to watch YouTube clips of people getting toys out of surprise eggs... Ellie busting in on me in the bathroom with bouffant hair and a miniature hairclip, and vaguing out somewhere between my instruction to put shoes on and the adjacent shoe rack... The usual.
Then as we were crossing the road to kinder, Ellie asked, "What if I miss you today?"
I told her she could tell herself, "Mummy's having a nice day, and I'm having a nice day, and I'll be able to tell her all about it when she picks me up."
And that seemed to be okay.
But then as we walked in, instead of a nice "Good morning" for Belinda at the door, Ellie marched to her locker with that face in chilly silence.
Belinda and I glanced at one another, eyebrows raised - eight weeks in, and Belinda knows Ellie well enough to know that that silence was something different.
Usually Ellie's one of those kids who's already put her fruit in the basket and is sitting on the mat before I've even made it to the signing-in line. This morning, she stayed with me. That is very, very, very not her.
I signed her in, drew my kids aside, set Owen down, and squatted at Ellie's level. She came straight to me, head down.
"What's up?" I asked.
"I want to go home with you," she muttered, still looking at her feet.
"Really? Why?" I asked, surprised.
And she looked up at me, and there were tears welling in her eyes - tears my brave girl was clearly trying so hard to hold in.
"What if I miss you?" she asked again, and crumpled into my arms with a little sob.
"Do you usually miss me?" I asked, as I held Ellie and Owen in a lovely-but-awkward squatting-pregnant-lady group-hug-type-thing.
She nodded. "Sometimes."
"Well, what do you usually do when you miss me?" I asked.
She thought for a moment.
And then Belinda came and invited Ellie to sit with her, and showed her how they'd changed around the Home Corner, and gently led her to the mat (where three other kids were crying and trying to climb into Julie's lap).
Julie said some nice, welcoming, reassuring things about all getting through the last day of term together. Belinda sat, and Ellie sat in her lap. I stood and gathered Owen... and paused.
See, I know how to fix her. I love this about my girl: when something's up, I can talk with her and we can discuss things and she's open to seeing a different perspective and being okay. She likes to learn about positivity and coping strategies - and I love to teach her.
This time, I had to let it go. Belinda smiled at me over Ellie's curls and mouthed, "She'll be fine." And I had to go against that crazy-powerful Mama Instinct to fix everything for my daughter, to take a Teachable Moment and put a lesson into it - and instead, I had to take my son and walk away.
And I did.
In the car, I sat quietly for a few moments and breathed. I'm usually the one who's happy to kiss and run - and so is Ellie. We always have been. But today it was such a struggle to walk away from my girl. It was such a struggle to not offer to try one last thing, to talk with her for one more minute, to hang around and check she was okay, to go back and sneak a look... All the things I'd normally advise other parents not to do, suddenly seemed so incredibly tempting.
But I know those things are for me, not for her.
I know Ellie won't always have me with her when things are difficult. I know she needs to learn to find her own way, and to accept others' help. I know she needs the opportunity to feel the comfort of the Lord.
I know Julie and Belinda are smart, and experienced, and compassionate, and sensible, and more than capable of dealing with a little girl having a sensitive day.
I know my girl is strong, and resourceful, and will choose happiness whenever she can.
And - biggest and best of all - I know I haven't left her on her own. I haven't cut and run, and abandoned her to cope by herself in the big wide world.
I know who's with her.
Sitting there in the car, with Owen "shooting" people through his window behind me, I prayed. I prayed for my girl to feel better and be fine, and to learn through this. I prayed for Julie and Belinda to say and do the things that would help her. I prayed for peace.
And above all, I thanked the Lord.
I thanked him for my wonderful girl. I thanked him for the relationship I have with her. I thanked him for helping me to walk away today. And I thanked him most of all for the greatest blessing any parent can have - the knowledge that when we can't be there with our children, HE IS. Always.
There isn't much that's better than that.
Now it's almost time to go pick her up, and I'm excited. I've had a good day. Owen and I ran some errands, went op-shopping and found pirate things, had a nice long walk, and still made it to Maccas with five minutes to spare before they put the bacon away. Then we played with the trucks and diggers in Toyworld until lunchtime.
I've had a good day, and I'm trusting that my girl has too. I'm looking forward to seeing her face again, to squashing her in a big cuddle and telling her how proud I am of her.
And I'm so much looking forward to seeing how okay she is, how happy, how completely fine. I'm looking forward to rejoicing yet again at the Lord's capacity to always be there for each of us individually.
My girl has a personal relationship with my God - with her God. And I know that relationship will grow and develop and blossom as she gets older and reaches an age of greater understanding. But for now, it's enough just to know that when I can't be there with her... HE IS.
This morning was a bit of a tough one.
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