Dear Little One,
You are so timid, so fragile, like you are made from hollowed eggshells. The computer makes you cry. The bathroom makes you cry. Talking makes you cry. You fog up your tiny glasses with rushes of hot tears. I didn’t even know that was possible. You dart your eyes away from mine and have never made eye contact. I think your goal each day is to be invisible.
Our goodbye routine is always a high-five. Never a hug. Never a smile. And when our palms meet, I can’t help but notice yours is trembling. I think your tiny twig arms tremble like that all the time.
Yesterday, after our standard goodbye high-five, I asked you “Are we ever going to hug?”
You looked at the wall.
“I’ve got a hug waiting for you when you want it.” I smiled.
“Tomorrow.”, you said, hurrying to the coat rack to retrieve your backpack. You wear your backpack in front, like a shield, and I wonder what it is you’re protecting yourself from.
Today I thought all day long about how you’d choose to say goodbye. Would you offer your wavering palm? Or maybe, just maybe, would you drop your guard enough to let me hug you?
The end of the day arrived and you opened your arms and stretched them toward me. They were shaking. Your whole body was shaking. I hugged you tight and undoubtedly too long.
I let you go and you took a step toward the coat rack. And then you looked back at me. You looked me in the eye and said “See you tomorrow, Mrs. McCauley.”
“See you tomorrow.” I replied, unsuccessfully fighting back tears. Little one, I promise to see you, really see you, every day, especially on days when you are willing yourself into invisibility behind your glasses.
Let go of your fear. Put down your shield. I am safe. I will not break you, sweet little one made of eggshells. My arms are open to you. Be brave, little one, brave enough to open yours again.