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Yesterday, school finally caught up with Cora.


We sort of made it through the afternoon and dinner and Cora began to create an elaborate make-believe game – a sure sign in my girls that they’ve got some stuff to process. All was going fairly well until Cora blatantly took a bag of Maddie’s and then refused to even share it with Maddie. When I gently but firmly insisted, that was the. Last. Straw. And Cora fled to her room, sobbing uncontrollably.

A few minutes later Maddie walked into Cora’s room. “WHAT!” Cora screamed. “Cora, I just wanted to say that I am sorry that I let my bag get between us,” Maddie said. “My sister is more important and it’s not worth breaking fellowship with you over something that small, and I’m sorry that it did.” (Lest you swoon at this, we’ve been working on it. HARD.)

“GO AWAY!” Cora screamed. So we tiptoed out.

My baby wailed. And wailed. And thrashed. And thrashed. I was determined to love her through this, to not let her push me away, so I waited patiently a few minutes, then went into her room with clean laundry. “You don’t have to talk to me,” I said to the lump under the sheets. “I’m just putting your laundry away.”

Cora suffered this ignominy until I began casually humming “Be Thou My Vision”, which is the song I always sang to her when she cried as a baby. I could see how much Cora was hurting, how overwhelmed by school and life she was and how she needed to just howl at the moon for a bit, but I wanted to see if I could push through the hard shell and give her some comfort. Cora’s thrashing took on epic proportions, until she finally got up out of bed and left the room.

So much for comfort.

My impulse was to take my humming and go – to punish her by not speaking to her, not pursuing her any more, forcing her to come to me begging for comfort. But this is a child, a baby, and it’s not about me – it’s about her, and what she needs. So I called her back without anger.

“Cora,” I said quietly as she stood vibrating furiously in front of me, “if my presence bothers you so much, I’ll leave – you can stay in your room. It’s ok.” Cora stormed back in and shut the door.

I moved to Maddie’s room, putting laundry away there for a few minutes. When I heard Cora’s door open and saw her leave, I moved back into her room to finish with the clean clothes there. I noticed that Cora had her writing desk out – a sure sign she’d been making notes for someone in the family.

I should say here – Cora’s letter-writing is serious stuff. Talk about a literal love language. Cora adores drawing “I LOVE YOU” notes, putting them in an envelope, addressing them, and leaving them in someone’s mailbox in front of his or her room. She always wants to be there when you open it, her tail wriggling in happiness, her heart overflowing as she grabs you in a hug. This is the essence of Cora, of my Heart.

So Cora had been delivering notes and came huffing back into her room, flouncing angrily into her seat. I thought she was beginning the slow circling of me that would end with crawling into my lap, but it appears I was wrong.

After a couple moments of silence, Cora said craftily, “Someone will be sad when they see that Mommy and Daddy’s mailbox only has one flag up!” Another explanation – Brian and I share a mailbox but have our own, differently-colored flag to denote the mail’s intended recipient.

Assuming the mail would be for the person NOT responsible for the current agita, I said evenly, “I’m sure it will be ok. Not everyone gets mail every day, and Daddy looks forward to letters just as much as I do. If I don’t get anything from you I still have all my lovely letters from the past that I’ve kept.”

Angry silence.

We danced around each other some more, with me finally declaring it officially bedtime, which kicked off another round of screaming sobs. I lay on Cora’s bed as she shook curled up at the foot. “Baby, I’ll be here as long as you need me to,” I said, which won me a kick in my general direction. I began reading a book aloud – which ratcheted up the screams exponentially.

Finally I got up and said, “My love, I’m sorry I can’t help you. I’ll go ahead and go so you can come up and get comfy on the bed. I love you, though.”

And a hand sneaked out from the ball and grabbed my arm.

My baby climbed into my arms and clung to me, shaking, while I held her and said, “It’s ok, baby, it’s ok,” over and over. I walked over to her rocking chair and we sat down in it with her still curled up like a ball. “Do you want me to read a couple books while we snug?” I asked, and she nodded. Cora got up to turn the light on for me, selected a couple books, and pulled the blanket up over us. I began to read, got one sentence into it, and Cora said suddenly, “Mommy, where’s my desk? It was in the chair!”

“Kiddo, I moved it so we could sit down. It’s right over there,” and I pointed. “But let’s just read for right now – your desk is fine.”

“No, I need it! I’ll be fast,” she pleaded, and stifling my impatience I nodded yes.

Cora walked over to her desk, pulled out an envelope, and walked back. On it was written “MOMMY”. She handed it to me. Inside, as you can imagine, was the “I LOVE YOU” note she’s so famous for.

I almost started crying.

My baby had written a note for both me and Brian, and then to punish me had only delivered Brian’s that night. But then she couldn’t stand it and had to give it to me anyway. That note was an admission of wrong, an apology, a thank-you note, and a note telling me I was doing something right. And she gave it to me with a smile and a hug.

She climbed back on my lap, we cracked open the book, and snuggled in deep.


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