By TODAY show editor Sara Pines, a.k.a. Sandwich Mom
I have been frustrated lately. I have a lot going on and my routine has been disrupted with repairs going on at home. I'm stressed out about school next year for my 4-year-old. For those who don't live in the City of New York, in this town nothing is simple. Could the district lines be moving? Maybe. Will she get into a Gifted and Talented program? Does it matter? Oy. I'm going to work every day and giving it my all but I'm sad about my dad, slowly dying of dementia in a nursing home nearby. I'm worried about my mom. She's traveling on her own, with legs not as strong as they used to be, but a spirit that seems to make up for it. New health insurance means I have to pick new doctors -- again -- not to mention, trying understand the choices of kinds of plans. Like I said, I'm a single mom with a lot going on. Life. All of which is to say, I've noticed that I've been a little short with my daughter lately. If I ask her to clear the table and she doesn't do it right away, I'm quick to snap, "Take your plate into the kitchen!!!!" Or, if she resists getting dressed and we're going to be late for a playdate in the park, "Isabelle, you have to learn to cooperate!!" She is a good kid and she usually kicks into gear when I get frustrated. But she's noticed.
After a recent morning of my picking and her dawdling, she was sulking in the laundry room. I asked her what was wrong and she asked one of those questions that stop you cold: "When you hurt my feelings, do you still love me, Mama?"I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, run away, offer a hug. I did three out of four.What could I say? "Of course, I love you, sweetheart, I will love you always and forever." That came along with a big hug from me, that she didn't seem to want to end.There's a good measure of guilt involved here. I'm sorry she's sad, of course. I'm still not sure if she's truly questioning my love for her (we are a very huggy family, she gets hugs all the time. Sometimes she asks for them, sometimes I just need to give her one). Is she really asking if I love her, or just trying to say, "You've been hard on me lately, Mom, back off!"I also tried to explain that I'm sorry if she feels bad, but sometimes she just needs to listen and do what needs to be done, even if she doesn't want to. But I do think she's grappling with some bigger issues than a distracted and impatient mom. The next day, she asked, "Are you going to die, Mom, and if you do, will you miss me? Because I'll miss you."My answer is the same: "I will love you always and forever, sweetie," adding that I'm not going to die, so she shouldn't worry. (My mom says that in her day, Dr. Spock said the only way to truly deal with that question is not to die. Seems like the right answer to me.)Its not unusual for kids to ask these kinds of questions, but it does leave me with a melancholy feeling, especially as I watch my dad head toward that ultimate fate and wish I could hear one more time from him, "I will love you always and forever, sweetie."The circle of life is vivid and whirling in my life these days ... standing out in stark relief.As for Isabelle's existential questions, they seem quickly answered and we move on to discussion of haircuts and Halloween costumes. I don't move on so quickly. I think about it all day.But, ultimately, I know, she just wants to hear, "I will love you always and forever."After all, isn't that what we all want to hear?