Today marked the first time that little bean refused to hold my hand.
We had about 10 meters to walk from the shop to the car. 10 meters that would usually be paced steadily, side-by-side, little hand in big hand, chattering and happy.
We've never had to break stride before; it's always been a given that we hold hands when cars are nearby; an easy and understood agreement. But as those 10 meters stretched out before us, I realized that the game had changed; that new rules were at play and that I needed to tread very carefully, both literally and figuratively.
"Please will you hold Mama's hand?"
"Because I no like that."
My mind raced... I thought of everything; from raisin-bribes to pleading... from distraction to just picking her up. After all, she is so little and it would be so very easy for me to "take charge" and enforce our rule. Just 28 pounds, I could carry her in one arm without breaking a sweat... but she's 28 pounds of pure love to me. 28 pounds of newly-defiant, self-assertive, courageous love.
I sat down on the small stone wall outside of the shop with a calmer mind but with no plan; no answer or method for reinstating our hand-holding rule before crossing those 10 meters of unchartered territory.
My daughter looked up at me and smiled. My daughter, who was not running out into traffic or bolting back into the shop. My daughter, who was happy to wait with her Mama, beside the wall in the sunshine. Little bean was showing me that she understood... that she was keeping herself safe by waiting by my side.
She crouched down on the dirty floor beside my feet and traced a line of ants with her index finger. As she sat, happily engrossed in studying stones, I felt a load lift from my shoulders. I felt my worries disperse and I felt thankful for the moment that we found ourselves in.
This moment of sunshine after a dismal winter.
This moment of stillness amid a hurried day.
This moment of calmness after a potential meltdown.
This moment of learning on dirty ground, beside a wall.
Learning for us both... bout bugs and gravel... about assertiveness and defiance. About saying No to power struggles and impending stalemate. About embracing equality and respect.
We sat for no more than 3 minutes. Three accidental minutes for me to re-group and re-affirm what being a parent to a toddler is all about. Because it doesn't have to be about "wins" and hierarchy; it can be about compromise and unity.
"Can we go home now, mama? These bugs not doing anything interesting."
Three unplanned minutes to allow and embrace her will.
"Sure, we can go home!"
Three unintended minutes to reach the same conclusion, on her terms... because although she may be small, she has terms too.
"I hold your hand then, Mama, cars coming."
Three unexpected minutes to think the best of my daughter.
Three simple minutes.