Yesterday afternoon, the girls sat at the counter eating lunch. I put away a couple of dishes, threw together my own food, and chatted with them, like I do during most mealtimes. While we were talking, Julia said, "Mom? Do you think you can use the voice like you used to use?"
"What voice is that, Jules?" I stopped what I was doing. I looked at her.
"Your smiling, happy voice," she said. Something inside of me sunk.
"Oh," I said, keeping my voice as light as possible. "What voice have I been using that you don't like?" Julia scowled. "A voice like this," she said. "Kind of mad."
I felt many emotions at that moment. I felt both the recognition and awe that I have felt at Julia's astute observations, which she has been making since long before she could talk. This kid has known me, read me, since the moment she was born. I felt grateful that she felt safe to share this with me, like it was no big deal-- just some personal development on a Wednesday afternoon, like when I tell her that it's good manners to keep her underwear covered in public. But mostly, I felt ashamed that sadness and anger are the emotions I have been projecting to her.
This summer has been a glorious respite from what has felt like a long, challenging year and a half. I have written before about the challenges of having two children-- challenges that have leveled me in ways I didn't expect. Summer, though, has shown me glimpses of what I imagine life with two daughters will be like: hysterical laughter as they spin in circles together, listening to "So Long, Farewell" from "The Sound of Music" on repeat... swimming at the pool, Margaret throwing a diving stick 2 inches for Julia and clapping when Julia retrieves it... Weekends in the mountains as a family of four, with moments when Scott and I catch one another's eye as a recognition of "yup, we're going to make it." There has certainly been conflict, but there has also been joy. And I have missed joy.
Julia's observation yesterday, though, reminded me that although I may feel joy, some of the difficulties from the last year and a half have left an imprint. Since having Margaret, I've noticed myself hurrying often, and therefore, hurrying Julia. Sometimes we are in a hurry, and that's life, but other times, I will catch myself-- does it matter if we leave for the pool in 4 minutes, or 4 seconds? Of course not. And my patience has suffered; the doctor running late, when I'm there for a quick check up with both girls, can send me into a tail spin. I shook with anger when the flight attendant would not let me board with both girls during priority boarding time on a recent flight. In short, I've become more tightly wound. Before kids, and especially before two kids, I prided myself on being calm and collected in challenging situations. I miss that version of myself, and it seems that Julia misses her, too.
In addition to feeling harried, I have definitely felt the effects of the current political climate (read: Donald Trump) and the current news (read: Orlando shootings, shooting black people in the street, shooting police officers.). I have felt simultaneously overstimulated and overloaded form the stories, and obsessed by reading more and more. I feel genuine fear about Trump, and about the world my girls are inheriting right now. I know that this media saturation has contributed to the attitude my astute Julia has sensed.
For the rest of yesterday, I smiled. And today, even though I have not slept well in two nights, and even though our house looks like a tornado, followed perhaps by a tsunami, has struck, I have smiled. Because, as Julia so innocently pointed out yesterday afternoon, perhaps a change can start with a simple choice.