Listen!

My 3-year-old daughter always has a reason, if only I have the respect to listen.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a stomach ache and wanted nothing more than to lie down quietly for a few minutes. But as soon as I uttered the words, my daughter’s eyes filled with concern and she tightened her grip around me. Despite everyone else’s best efforts to distract her with all of her favourite things, she remained determined to come along with me to bed. As tempted as I was to untangle her arms from around me and slip away to recover in peace and quiet, I could feel the relentlessness in her grasp and knew she was determined to come along.

As I gave in and scooped her up, burying my nose in the silky comfort of her baby curls, I tried to forgive her for being so insistent despite seeing that I was in pain. I knew that she was worried about me and, therefore, reluctant to let me out of her sight. I trudged up the stairs heavily, with her weighing me down, feeling quite sorry for myself as my stomach seemed to hurt even more now. I made my way to bed and set her down before settling myself in too. After a few minutes of lying down, my stomach stopped hurting as much, I began to feel better and was able to enjoy her company.

It suddenly struck me that she was trying to make me feel better. She was gently stroking my stomach, arranging pillows and blankets to make me comfortable, sweetly chattering all the while. I acknowledged her efforts, thanked her for her kindness, and told her I was feeling a bit better. “That’s why I came, Mama,” she said, “to take care of you!” I suppose it should have been obvious to me from the beginning but the truth is that it is easy, in the heat of the moment, when your stomach hurts and you want peace and quiet, to overlook what is right in front of you…

Our children have rich and complex inner lives… and, often, the very best of reasons!

Indus Chadha believes we cannot exist or be understood without stories and spends much of her time reading and writing them. She earned a BA in Women’s Studies and English Literature from Smith College and an MFA in Creative Writing from the School of the Arts at Columbia University.

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