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Sometimes I’m stunned when my daughter says things to me at 2 that I say only in my head, things I’d never speak and even try to keep from appearing. It makes me wonder how they slip through, when she sees them, or if somehow, unknowingly they slipped themselves into my DNA like curls or an occasionally questionable attitude. I look at her in her perfection and wonder how she carries these things of mine, if somehow in me, too, they could be as wonderfully made.

We celebrated Mother’s Day quietly a few weeks ago, because quiet is what any mother of a two-year-old wants (and deserves!) most. [A side note: I’ve recently heard living with a two-year-old compared to having a deranged parrot in your house and to living in a DVD with the director’s commentary turned on. Both are true and funny and make me feel better and understood! And though it sounds like I‘m complaining I really love it, because she is smart and engaged and completely hilarious!]

Back to Mother’s Day: my daughter and I sent ourselves upstairs for the afternoon, allowing my wife some well-deserved rest with the couch and HGTV. As I busied myself with my endless, mildly obsessive list of things to do, I tried to keep her distracted with toys and television, staying in one room long enough to get her occupied and then moving to another to try to get something done. But she’s fast and curious, and I’m ashamed to say how quickly I found myself dodging my child, convinced that her sole purpose was to frustrate my efforts and relegate me to another week of being massively behind (behind what I‘m not sure). After several maneuvers she found me again, and as I tried to move away, she exclaimed at me in her own frustration “I just want to see you!”

I just want to see you.

Those words have so often been kept from my mouth only by my dignity and the knowledge that it’s not something you can yell at strangers, or even less-than-strangers.

I want you to see me, too.

In her raw and determined state, this not-even-three-feet of honesty never considers that she shouldn’t have what she wants, and she chases me down because she wants what I want. And I’m tempted as the words come out of her mouth to say you don’t know, you can’t know now that this is a hard desire, to advise her to trade that chromosome for another that’s more functional (like the ability to add more than single digits) and less inclined towards brooding and heartbreak, both real and self-imposed. You don’t want to spend your life trying to see or hoping to be seen. Except that I know, too, that every once-in-a-while it happens. I get to see. I am seen. And it’s great and strong enough – strong as death – that it eclipses those longing days.

It’s not mine to change what’s knit into her, only to teach and empower her and give her a taste of living it out well, and to hope that she also has enough of her mother that she‘ll pull it off better than I do most of the time. So I gave up my list; we sat together to watch cartoons, and for a little while we both got what we wanted.

I like to get up early in the morning.  I don’t always do it; it’s bizarrely common for my wife (whom I should say, does not enjoy getting up early) and me to begin our day with a two-hour symphony involving five different alarms and carefully calibrated snooze buttons.  In case you’ve never experienced the delicate timing of this, it means an alarm goes off approximately every five and a half minutes for two hours, and somehow we believe that’s more restful than just getting up, or accepting reality and setting  the alarm later – false hope should pay rent at our house.  At least I’m guessing that’s why we play the game.  We believe communication is vital to a good relationship as long as it happens after 9:00 am, so it’s possible that she has an entirely different perspective on the alarms, but I’m not ready to risk our marriage to find out. 

When I do make it up early, it’s great.  I have a job that involves a lot of interaction, an addiction to communication devices, and a two-year-old who believes that a thought doesn’t exist unless she says it out loud repeatedly, so 5-7 am  is the only quiet window in my day.  It gives me some time to read and listen, to focus before the distracting parts of my own brain wake up, and often to decide which of my different lives need most of my attention for the day. 

I have to schedule my work days ahead of time, so they’re the easiest to determine, since they’re not really up for debate.  Dad days require the most intentionality (at least if I’m going to make them good and not fall into the trap of treating them like a burden), because it feels like they have no deadline or due date, except when I look at her and realize that she’s two inches taller than when I last noticed and even I can’t remember when that happened or when she changed from a baby into a person and I’ve been here the whole time.  In those moments the deadline looms large.  The writing days will be patient the longest, but can get really pushy when they’re finally tired of waiting around for creating to become a priority.  There are even pay the bills, do some laundry, pretend you’re a handyman, and go to the grocery store unless you want to starve days (often my wife and I do some advanced musical chairs playing to see who gets stuck with this day).  And there are days when I leave all of them to fight it out among themselves and find my way to the beach, or the mall, or the couch, or even the kitchen, because the quickest way to quiet anything down is to feed it.   

So on the good days, when it’s a little after 5, and I have some coffee and I’ve glanced quickly at my email and Facebook and Twitter and the New York Times and the local paper online (this goes faster than you’d imagine and who knows what could have happened overnight), I can settle in for just a little while.  My dad reads the obituaries in the paper every morning; he says it’s to make sure his name’s not in there.  I think for me too, my days are better when I start out making sure I’m alive.  It’s when I decide which life I’ll live today, which of my selves I’ll be, or at least work towards being.   Maybe one day I’ll get up early and find them all together, getting along, excited for one another, and we’ll all be the same. 

in Him all things hold together