Hug Arms

She is jumping wildly up and down, clutching the edge of the kitchen table, screaming, “I. Need. A. HUG!”

For the record, I am standing eighteen inches away from her with my arms outstretched, trying to find an opening to give her what she claims to want. 

It’s a trick, of course. She doesn’t want a hug. She wants to scream. But I believe in hugs, so I offer anyway. If I could change this morning with a hug, I would. A hug is an easy gift to give.

She runs away, still hollering. Her feet pound like she is on a pogo stick as she races to throw herself against an armchair so she can yell about hugging me from farther away.

Neither of us is even sure why she’s upset. Because she didn’t want to get dressed? Because she’s hungry? Because she’s 3?

She begins to play the piano. Her hug demands become almost melodic. “I WAAAANT a HUUUUUG!” she hollers as she bangs on the keys.

I don’t pursue her. But my arms still want to give her that hug.

After she finally gives up and eats her breakfast, she wants to color. She squeezes her knees together and bounces a little (a tell-tale sign), begging for coloring paper while I rinse dirty dishes. I take her into the bathroom.

“But I don’t need to go!”

“We try when we’re dry,” I remind her in a singsong voice, trying to keep my own spirits high. This morning feels like yet another in a long line of emotionally weary mornings. In the war of attrition she is waging against me, my attitude is usually the first casualty. I wonder if she knows how long I hold out. I wonder if she can see how hard I fight to do it right for her. Or does she only count the times I lose the battle?

“Please! Please! PleeeeeAAAAASSE!” she whines from the potty. “Help! Mommy, help!”

I confess, I am not quite sure how to help. If I could pee for her, potty training would be a lot easier.

She starts whimpering—she hates sitting here and begs to get off the second she sits down—and calls my name as pitifully as she can manage in a little, crackly voice. “AH ah. AH ah. Moooommy.”

“How can I help you?”

“I need help!” she insists. I repeat my question, rubbing her knee and trying to look into her eyes so she knows I am serious. I will help her if I can. I want this to work. I want her to be confident and successful—on the potty, and everywhere else.

“I just want you to do NOTHING.”

Okay…I can do that. I sit on the stool by the sink, calmly picking at my fingernails while I wait for her to do her business.

“No, Mom, I just want you to do NOTHING!” she yells at me again. I can feel my inner order starting to slide.

This essay was published in full at Kindred Mom as part of their series called Humble Life! Click here to read the whole thing.

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