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Maddie Gets Her Joy Back

Maddie’s been going through a rough
patch recently – in some ways, over the past week or so; and
in some ways, over the past few months or so. We’ve been
working through it together, and I can tell you, it hasn’t
been easy – almost too hard for me to even talk about as we
were in the throes.

She’s been wrestling with some real demons – her
worries and fears; her introvertedness being challenged at every
turn in school – and I’ve ached to see my child go
through all this. But for the past couple of days I’ve seen
something that makes me think she’s turned a corner –

I’ve seen her smile.

Somewhere along the line, my happy,
joyful, can’t-be-held-down Maddie got, well, beat down.
She’s been sullen, mean, impatient, and with the fuse of a
sleep-deprived newborn. And it’s happened so gradually that I
didn’t realize how big the change had been until perhaps two
days ago, when she began fighting her way back.

I’m not saying she hasn’t smiled in the past few months
– but her happy periods have been reckless, almost manic and
desperate, rather than content and easy sailing. Her clinginess,
her worries, have all piled on her poor shoulders and the weight is
almost too much for her to bear sometimes. About a month ago she
was lying in bed, unable to sleep after three hours. She was
fearful, so worried she was almost paralyzed, tears streaming down
her face in silence. “Mommy, I’m just so worried I
don’t think I can take it any more.” “Baby, what
are you worried about?”

“I just don’t know.”

But her anxiety’s lessening, and she’s working like
anything to get her fears under control, to develop patience with
her sister, to cling to her faith in grownups that we’re here
to take care of her. And I see the fruit of these exhausting
labors, as my happy child begins to come back. Maddie’s less
stressed about school (though she still says it’s too long)
and is making wiser choices about her time – choosing to not
invite a friend over to play, for example, when she’s peopled
out; or choosing to walk away from Cora and take a break if they
start bickering.

I feel the easing of the tension around her, and a breath I
wasn’t even aware I was holding has been let out. I see my
baby’s smile – her REAL smile, not her sugar-induced
high – and I want to weep and say, “Hey! I know that
smile! I remember it! Welcome back!”

I’m not saying her battles are finished, or that she
won’t still have rough patches ahead as she deals with all
this – whatever “this” might be. I’m just
saying I see her humming to herself as she makes up math problems
for her stuffed dog, or hear her say, “Cora, you buttoned
your own shirt! I knew you could do it!” and I know my
girl’s back.

Which means my joy is back as well.


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