My husband took this picture on our evening walk, on Saturday night. We were playing in the public art garden on campus, on a raised platform stage. Nora was running in circles and banging her feet on the boards. I decided to lift her up, so she could touch the leaves on the low hanging branches. This was five minutes before the evening meltdown.
Earlier in our walk, I made the mistake of telling Aaron that we were doing a pretty good job with her, as parents. Of course, as we transitioned away from the platform and back towards the stroller, she kicked and screamed, hollered her new favorite phrase, over and over. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t.
I offered to hold her hand as we walked. She refused. I offered to sing her songs. I don’t. Eventually, I narrated all of the familiar things I noticed on our way home: the color of the green hydrangea, the gnomes on the president’s lawn, the garden trellis by the library. Nora calmed down, mostly, as I asked her questions about what we saw.
As we walked, I held on to the not-so-distant memory of lifting her body up to the branches and watching her touch the leaves. I remember the feeling of being rooted in place as she wiggled to get just a few inches higher. When her cries quieted and moved to questions, I reminded myself that I need to provide her both structure and freedom, not always in equal measure.
On this night, she got both.