A Decade of Hearing Your Truths (Notes to My Tween Daughter)

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You’re brand new to this world, and I’m brand new to this — this vulnerability, this all-consuming love. Though you cannot talk, your truths are not hard to find. You shriek your needs without restriction, and I am exhausted and overwhelmed and worried I will do it wrong, but I never wonder what it is you’re saying to me. There is no reading between the lines of 2 am howls for food or mid-day exhaustion. This is the hardest it will ever be but also — in some ways — the easiest.

 

Photo by Bastien Jaillot on Unsplash

 

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You are three and full of questions. Nothing can satiate your questions. They come like machine gunfire, and my mind is full, full, full and misfiring. You ask about the sun and the stars and the moon and the history of people long ago and the lives of people you pass on the street and the nature of reality and the way colors mix and the source of water and the power of dance and the difference between fiction and fact and I try, try, try to answer well. I know that in the brief pauses, the intake of breath, the between spaces, you are learning how to be, who to be, why to be. Your truths aren’t formed yet, but you’re shaping them, and my answers matter more than I know how to take.

 

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You are six and full of fantasy. Imaginary characters fill your world, and you spend hours lost with them in play. Sometimes you share it with me, but I can tell that you can tell I don’t see what you see, and you’re content to fill me in on the highlights. I’m thrilled when you draw me a picture to help me understand, and I can see your truths hidden in the stories. Who wins, who loses, who will limp off to battle another day — they’re all glimpses at your determination to make sense of the world.

 

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You are nine and full of games. You’ve found that those imaginary characters you crafted served as templates for a world where other people will understand their nature. My ears fill with words I don’t understand, jabbered at a rapid-fire pace. It’s all Ender dragons and mined materials and building and making and living and dying and betrayals and alliances. I try to listen, listen, listen for an idea I can understand beneath the words I don’t because I see this is important to you. I see that these, too, are truths.

 

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You are eleven and sullen. The world has not been kind to any of us these past few years, but you went from a little girl to a big one mostly alone. Your truths are harder to find now, and I have to wait, wait, wait to catch them. They don’t come when I expect it — not when I ask or when you’re saying something practiced and careful. They come in the tiny glimpses — as we slip-slide down a muddy hill on a hike and your face flashes fear, relief, trust before we crash together unharmed. They come in waiting spaces — as we ride in the car and the song turns to one you love, and we sing along, our voices matching for a moment.

 

Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

 

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Your truths come less often now and from quieter, more secret places. There was a time when listening was not optional, when your voice drowned out my own thoughts so fully that I thought I may lose myself in the noise. Now, the threat comes from the other side. Could I lose something in the silence? It brings with it a promise, too. If I can only remember to listen, I can still find your truths.

 

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