Pigtails and other business.
March 24, 2011

All of her hair, that golden silk I adore, is pulled into pigtails on the sides of her head.  She is dipping a bucket into a container of water, then pouring it out.  Smiling.  Laughing.  It is raining and she is muddy up to her knees, watching as the raindrops fill up the row of tiny cups I set down on the walkway.  This is the child I love, I remind myself.  I feel like I need to pinch myself.  She is so lovely that she cannot possibly be real.

Two minutes later, she is crying.  Her face is red and there are big, fat tears balanced on the top of her cheeks.  Maw-maw!, she yelps at me.  Maw-maw, hep!

She is muddy and wet and cold, but I go to her.  I wrap her in my arms, give her kisses and snuggles, tell her I love her.  I ask her what the problem is.  She points to a puddle forming in the rain at the base of the tree, beside the buckets.  She wants the water from the puddle but the bucket is too big.

I set her down and grab her hand.  Her gum boots squish and squelch in the rain.  We pick up the little cups and take them to the puddle at the base of the tree and I show her how to use them to scoop out the water.

That’s exactly what she wanted and at first she is thrilled, but the puddle soon runs out.  What is left is a murky slushy slick of mud.  She doesn’t want the mud in her cups.  It makes her cry.  It makes her call for me, call Maw-maw hep, and it makes her sit down in the cold, dark puddle in defeat.

Sitting down creates a splash.  She laughs.  The mud runs into her boots.  She cries.  I pull her boots off and throw them in the puddle.  She laughs.  She has to walk in the mud in her socks now.  She cries.  I hand her a stick to poke in the mud.  She screams with excitement.  She accidentally flings some mud on her face.  She cries.

She isn’t tired.  She isn’t sick.  She isn’t cold.  She isn’t hungry.  It takes every ounce of energy I have to weather this storm, to find creative ways to keep her entertained.  Every moment, I am wondering.  Am I causing this?  How can I improve this situation?  Is she having a bad day, just like I sometimes do?  How does she feel right now?  Am I being patient enough?  Is she trying to communicate with me?

The entire day goes like this.  Sometimes days do.  Inside and outside, in our yard and at the library, before and after naptime, when her father leaves for work and when he comes home.  I sweep her up, hold her close, offer my milk, and it is not enough.  I am frustrated and exhausted by the time we lay her down for the night and I have no energy left, but when I peek into the bedroom because I heard a sound, there they are.  Those two blonde pigtails on either side of her head.

I fall in love all over again.  It’s always these little things that make my heart sing.  The gummy smiles, the shimmering tip of a tooth, the toes in the grass, the pigtails bouncing with the wind.  As I’m sliding the rubberbands out of her hair, I give her a kiss.  It’s okay, baby love, I tell her, soaking up her innocence, wishing her sweet dreams.  We’ll have a better day tomorrow.

And we do.


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  1. By Tracy on March 24, 2011

    Wow, that was a beautiful and real post. Thanks for sharing. We all definitely have days like that!

  2. By on March 24, 2011

    Beautiful post.  I had a day like this on Tuesday and by lunchtime I wasn’t sure how I would make it through.

  3. By Lindsay on March 24, 2011

    This was such a beautiful post!

  4. By Kimberly o'Rosky on March 24, 2011

    I needed to hear this.  I’m constantly asking myself the exact same questions. Especially when people question how active my daughter is for her age. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  5. By dandy on March 24, 2011

    Thank you for this

  6. By Stephanie on March 24, 2011

    Your post reminds me of when my first daughter was Charlotte’s age, and I was wondering/frustrated about all the crying-laughing-crying, A wise friend told me that the 18-36 month age was like this. It would be challenging but it would work itself out, she said. Go with the flow, she said. And so I did. And I did again when Daughter #2 came along.

    Better days come—even if those days have tears—and every day is better.

  7. By erin on March 25, 2011

    We are having more and more days like that, and I am starting to feel like it is maybe just the normal frustration of being almost two.  She can do almost everything she wants to do, but not quite.  She can communicate almost everything she wants to communicate, but not quite.

    Also, WOW, bravo to you for being out in that storm.  (I am assuming this was like Monday or so?)  And bravo to Charlotte too.  Hannah doesn’t mind playing in the rain, but combined with the wind it really bothers her.

  8. By Shannon on March 25, 2011

    I can totally relate to this post, and it is frustrating.  It breaks my heart to see my two year old daughter get so frustrated and break into tears but my heart sure fills back up again when that smile returns!

  9. By on March 26, 2011

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I have been exhausted these last few weeks with my two year old. He starts from the moment he wakes up to when he goes to sleep. He wants to be so independent but looses it at the first struggle. I’ve been feeling like I am goin to loose my shit.  I know he and I will get through it. Now if I can only find the off switch to that damn repeat button!!!

  10. By Sarah Christensen on March 26, 2011

    Erin - The storm wasn’t really bad here.  It was windier when it wasn’t raining, actually, and since I was running laundry, we kept stopping to warm up by the dryer vent off the garage!  We weren’t outside that long each stretch either.  We’d be outside for twenty or thirty minutes, inside for an hour, outside for twenty or thirty, inside for two hours, etc.


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