We watched a friend's little girl today. In an effort that all we mothers constantly strive to achieve, my friend wanted some balance and so planned to take a yoga class, a little patch of time to herself. As her daughter is beautifully attached at her age, we both knew this might prove tricky for said little one. They came over early, to settle little daughter in, and after a bit, my friend left and her daughter (a lovely, lovely girl who is only a few weeks younger than Dory, is even slighter than our girl with that blow-away-in-the-wind delicacy and has the soulful brown eyes of a poet) did exactly what you might expect and dissolved into tears.
For a while she was inconsolable, sitting on my lap and crying, and saying "mama, home, mama home," in that way that could actually break your heart in half if I didn't know what's she's starting to learn which is that mama will come home again. Mama will come home, hurrying, rushing, speeding, so glad to be home and so incredibly refreshed from her two and a half hours of time on her own. Mama will come home, there is little in the world as certain as that. In about two hours. Two hours is a hard thing to explain to a person who has no concept of anytime except Right Now.
Off and on this little girl cried and I would hold her while she did (I actually held her nearly all the time- she recognized, I'm quiet sure that, my possession of breasts meant sitting in my lap put her in much closer proximity to the good stuff than, say, sitting at Dory's baby piano. Sure it wasn't her good stuff, but- it's still nice to be close.) Dory played around her, sometimes engaging me or both of us and other times just playing and occasionally shoving her friend enough to the side of my lap to get her own good stuff ("the bobos" as they're known around here). And sometimes this little girl would watch, would look up, interact, and seem to have a very good time. And then something would remind her of mama and she would dissolve into tears again.
And it reminded me of anytime I've ever seen any friend with a broken-heart. The way you sort of limp along, and then slowly start to get your step back and then- bam!- you drive past the diner you always ate at or hear that song you both used to laugh at, but secretly loved and suddenly you're weeping on the kitchen floor. We were on a little walk in front of the house, Dory in diaper and shoes, marching along with purpose (remember, she knew exactly where her bobos were) and me holding our little friend on my hip, following, talking about leaves and sticks. And this girl suddenly said "stick!" with such enthusiasm I picked one up and held it out to her. At which point she melted in my arms, sobbing, "stick, mama, stick," in a way that said clearly, "this is just like the stick mama and I once picked up." And I did what I think most good friends do- I validated her feelings. "Yes, I know you miss mama. And maybe that stick makes you think of her. It can be tough when mama's not here. Even hearing she'll come back doesn't always help. Yes, I know. I hear you."
Off and on all morning, this was the experience. And then mama came home and it was exactly what you expected- daughter lights up, beams, than cries a little more and then it's done. The emotions are out, expressed, mama's home, she survived, and everything is right with the world again.
Mostly it made me realize/remember/get hit with that bolt of lightening- what's so bad about treating our children the way we treat our friends? If you go to a friend and say, "I've experienced this loss that I'm not sure I'll pull through or even how to start..." would your friend reply "oh, it's fine, get over it"? Or "stop crying! he'll be right back!" The emotion is the same for them as it is for one of us when we've been romantically wounded, only, I expect it's much worse. They don't yet understand permanence, impermanence, a run to the store, time to one's self. Yet how often do we dismiss their hurt because we (big, wise, moon-faced grown-ups that we are) can logically see the other end? Maybe its not treating our children as our friends (though that doesn't seem so bad either) but treating them like our friends that might make these relationships run a little smoother. And letting them know, they're worth the same respect as someone more than three feet tall seems like a good place to start.