When I was a little girl, every once in a while I would be sitting in the backseat of the car, riding along with my dad, and he would extend his hand towards me. I always knew what he was going to say, but he would always ask, “Aquila, can I hold your hand?” At age 7, I was proud to hold my dad’s hand. Because when you’re young your dad is your hero, your knight in shining armor. At age 16, I would be irritated in all my awkward teenager glory, but I would still begrudgingly oblige. And even now, at age 28, when we go to visit my dad will ask if he can just hold my hand, if only to give it a quick squeeze. Now though, I do it because I understand. I have my own daughters to look after, and so I realize that holding my hand isn’t just his way of showing affection, it’s a way of telling me he loves me without even having to say it.
I have good days and I have bad days as a mom. There are moments when I am ready to pull my hair out, and I will snap at Cora or feel frustrated that Issa needs to nurse for the millionth time that day. And I hate having those lows, I really do. I wish I could say that I am positively gleeful 100% of the time I am with my children, but it’s not always the case. When I feel the most guilt, however, is when I am touched out. When I feel like there has been some little person either talking to me, sitting on me, poking my arm, SOMETHING every second of the day. Even our poor dog, Frenchie, likes to sleep curled up next to my legs. It’s exhausting, if I’m being completely honest.
But for some reason, being in the car gives me just enough time to reflect. Just enough space to take an honest look at how I’m doing that day as a mom. And sometimes I feel good about it, but other times I realize I’ve fallen short of what my girls deserve. And in that moment I think back to my Dad, in all his simplicity. I stretch my hand around to the back seat where her car seat sits, and offer up a simple question. “Cora, can I hold your hand?” She’s young now, so I always feel a warm little hand in mine soon after. It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’ve had at that point. I give her hand three little squeezes. I. Love. You. She has no clue what those squeezes mean at this point, of course, but it’s my way of just trying to make up for all the mistakes I inevitably have made as her mom.
There may come a day when she refuses to honor my request. When she thinks it’s weird, or just annoying that her mom is always wanting to hold her hand. And Issa may feel the same way, too. But I hope they’ll do me this one little favor. I’ll keep trying to be a better mom, if they’ll give me the grace to forgive me. To hold my hand, even when I’ve done nothing to deserve it. Because something about feeling that little person’s fingers wrapped around mine puts everything into perspective. It’s a reminder to me that these feelings of being “touched out” are only temporary, since it only takes a few hours away from my girls before I start to miss them. And someday they’ll be in school, when I only get to see them for a few hours in the morning, and a few hours at night. Then they’ll move out, maybe to live in another state like I have, and I’ll get to see them for just a few weeks out of the year. So for now, while they’re right there in the backseat, I’ll offer up my hand. And I’ll pray that they take it. Just so I can make sure they know that I love them. No matter what.
Oh, and dad? If you’re reading this, I’ll always hold your hand. Thank you for being you. 🙂