Mornings seemed to always come easy in our house. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m a morning person. I enjoy getting up before the rest of the house begins to stir and get a jump start on the day, making sure coffee is prepped, vitamins are in a row and there is some form of clean clothes. I tidy up the kitchen and start the dishwasher. I pick up stuffed animals. I listen to a podcast or two. And then, I make the slow walk down the hallway to your room to wake you up.
Mornings were our thing. I turned on the hall light and entered your room. You always sleep in the most awkward of positions, and I often wondered if you were comfortable. I turned on the small lamp atop your dresser, crossed the room to your bed and started to rub your hair. “Wake up, Madeline. It’s time to get ready.” After a period of time, you awoke, and we started the morning dance. You got ready, and I helped … but only if you needed me to. Since turning four, you have definitely taken on more responsibility for your personal self. It’s really something to watch, but I’m lucky that I still get to at least brush your hair. Once you’re ready, we gathered our things for the day and headed out the door, giving our kisses goodbye to dad.
A few weeks ago, your little sister entered the picture, and her presence challenged our morning routine. One morning in particular, we were in a rush. I knew we were in a rush. I woke up late because I didn’t sleep the night before. Your little sister needed an extra feeding at 2 a.m. She needed me, and I didn’t hesitate. Once she was settled, I went back to sleep. I overslept. And I give myself grace upon grace for that because it happens. But oversleeping in the mornings is much different now than when it was just us two. Oversleeping caused me to rush to get you up, figure out an outfit and make sure you were in some “put together” state. While you were trying to ask me a question about your clothes, your sister started to cry. She needed me at the exact moment you needed me. I left you to pick out an outfit while I picked up your sister. I started to help her get ready. You asked me something. I turned my focus to you but quickly departed as your sister started to fuss. I locked my focus on her, dismissing your needs and asked you to hurry up. I don’t know what made me lose my patience, but I did.
The moments that followed happened quickly. I started gathering your sister’s diaper bag and getting her in the car seat so I could drop you off at school. That was still ours … I need to be able to still take you to school. To keep that as ours. Even if it’s shared. So I rushed you to get your toy that you can bring to school and put on your shoes. You stalled. For whatever reason, you stalled. And you didn’t do what I asked for ten minutes after countless requests. I raised my voice with a crying baby in my arms. And you started to cry.
“What is wrong?” I said, enunciating every word as frustrated mothers often do. I know the tone I had. It wasn’t nice.
“You only ever hold Grace!” she said through sobbs upon sobbs.
The words played over and over again in my head for what seemed like eternity but only lasted a few seconds. You said one thing. I heard one thing. But I felt an ocean of pain wash over my entire being.
I put your sister down in her seat and whisked you up into my arms. I held you. “Hug me so tight,” I said. “I will hold you whenever you want me to.”
I don’t remember a hug that tight, but it was exactly what both of us needed at that moment. For so long (four an a half years to be exact), it was just us two in our morning routine. We had each other to get things accomplished, and that was enough. Your hug reminded me of that time, and it was a signal of what was lost. It was a hug of remembrance, of what was. There won’t be a time again when it’s just the two of us in the mornings. And that was something we finally realized a few weeks after your sister came home. At that moment, it felt as though an intruder stole our moments and tried to pull us apart. It challenged our relationship. It divided me and everything that I have ever given you. I felt completely split in two.
So, my sweet and fierce daughter, where do we go from here?
Well, I can tell you with certainty that there will continue to be times of frustration, even long after this moment of transition with a new sister are over. I need to share my heart and my entire self even beyond the morning routine. I know you will eventually understand. And it will still be hard … for both of us, girl. But never stop challenging me. Never stop telling me, even if it’s obscure or in your own way, when you need a hug or attention. I’ll be there the best that I can. I belong to you … and you belong to me.