S. watches Papa and B. leave for dance class, and I see the click of realization: she has Mommy to herself. Not one to miss an opportunity, she states her position from the start. “I stay at the house,” she says, softly but clearly. I reply brightly, “Yes, we can stay here for a few more minutes, and then we’re going to music with Sasha!” Her eyes meet mine but she doesn’t return my hopeful smile. “No. I stay at the house.” A beat passes, then “Here, mommy, here with you” just in case I didn’t understand.
I'm not too phased – as I do when at my best, I started this conversation a good 10 minutes before we actually have to get ready to leave. We chat about her toys, cuddle on the sofa to read a book, and then I say, “Thank you for the play time! Now we’ll get ready to go to music!” Before I even finish the sentence, she's squirming away from my side, her back to me and face deliberately turned away. She crawls lazily along the floor to a chair across the room, climbs up, and sits firmly to face me. I say, clinging still to optimism, “Let’s go, Sabine, we’ll get your shoes with the flowers, and you can have a snack in the car!” She watches me in silence.
Now we are in the critical 3 minutes – the difference between running in the door just as class starts, or bustling in disruptively late and missing the “hello” song, which tends to set a sullen tone. Here comes my adrenaline; I hear myself sigh heavily, and it reminds me to breathe.
I move to the floor at her feet. “So, you don’t want to go to music?” emerges from my mouth, disappointment dripping from my feigned surprise. Her eyes widen in silent regard, as if to say “duh.” (Hey, that’s my look!) “No music?” I ask again. She shakes her head so hard her upper torso comes along for the ride.
And then something breaks through my adrenaline focus, a stutter in the undercurrent of “must do next” that is my perpetual background process. I feel a sensation like opening just under my ribcage and it takes me a second to realize it’s relief.
“Okay,” I say with a more genuine smile than I’ve shown all morning. “Let’s stay here, together.” Her eyes light on mine and she leaps from the chair into my arms.