Hold on, Little Koala

It's 8am, 36 degrees, and windy. Kenai has to go out still, and we are supposed to be leaving the house in 45 minutes. I grab a granola bar and usher Julia down the stairs. "Here, sweetie," I say, "A chocolate chip cookie granola bar for you to eat in the stroller!" No such luck; my granola bar is met with an indifferent glance and a resolute "no." I sigh. I get both of us ready in hats, mittens, jackets. Kenai's leash is on. We're almost out the door when Julia decides she needs "the little dog with the leash," which could mean any number of toys upstairs. Ten minutes later, dog in hand, we are off.

Julia shuffles down the sidewalk. "Jia will sit down now," she says, two minutes in. I groan inwardly. We walk every afternoon, and it's one of the nicest parts of our day. But for some reason, this morning, we can't get it together. "Mama hold you," she says, once I've gotten us moving again. We haven't even rounded the first corner. We still have almost 1/2 mile to go. "This is why I wanted to bring the stroller," I mutter. I hoist her onto my shoulders, and we continue. We walk in silence, more hurried than usual as our 9:15 appointment looms.

A few moments later, I tell Julia,"When we get to that car up there, it will be your turn to walk." I put her down, and she crouches down on the sidewalk, examining a pebble. I sigh."Okay, love, let's keep going. We're almost home." Julia looks at me and then continues her investigation.

I pick her up, put her on my hip. Julia puts her head on my shoulder. "Now Mommy will say, Hold on, Little Koala," Julia says. "Now Mommy will be happy. Mama and Jia are happy koalas." I feel tears in my eyes.

Hold on, Little Koala is one of our "things," invented because when I am carrying Julia with other things in my arms, I need for her to hold on tightly. She smiles every time I say it to her. This morning, I realized its significance: a signal that it's time to stop, take a breath, connect, and hold on. And, standing on the street this morning, in the wind, I said, "Yes. Mommy will be happy now. I'm sorry. I don't mean to be grumpy." And I realized that I wasn't grumpy any more. I was embarrassed-- embarrassed for expecting Julia to act like anything other than a two-and-a-half year-old. I was grateful to Julia for giving me an out, a way to change my ridiculous behavior. We strolled home, heavy toddler on my hip, heavy dog pulling his leash, happy koalas once again.