A Child And The Weight Of The World

Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

“He said something that really, really hurt my feelings,” my daughter said.

“Tell me,” I offered.

“I can’t repeat it,” she said through tears.

“Okay,” I said. “I don’t need to know.”

But she kept dropping hints and asking me to guess. “It wasn’t a bad word,” she said. “It was the worst thing you can say to someone without using a bad word.”

“I don’t really want to guess,” I said. And I really didn’t. Why throw a whole bunch of negative things into the air and take the chance that they are ten times worse than the actual thing that was said?

“It begins with the word what,” she said.
“What…” I began.
“You’re not guessing. I’m upset that you’re not guessing.”

She was crying hard now and crouched down on the floor in the corner like a little rabbit. I didn’t need to see her face to wonder if she needed a tissue. She nodded and without lifting her face accepted the tissue and blew her nose. When she sat up, her eyes were red, her cheeks streaked, her hair a flyaway bird’s nest. And she was still beautiful.

“Let me whisper it to you,” she said.
She leaned her snuffling self toward my ear and managed to get out “What happened…” before collapsing into tears again. “My feelings are really hurt,” she explained.

I didn’t want her to tell me. I just wanted to sit beside her and try to give some support where I could tell it was needed. I made some sympathetic noises.

After a few minutes, she looked up and me, her cloudy eyes filled with determination.

“What happened to the fun Sadie?” she said. “That’s what he said.” Her lip trembled and a couple of big fat tears oozed out. “And that really, really hurt my feelings.”

I was stung. Her father had said something similar to me a few hours earlier. He’d reminisced about the “fun” Tanya.

It is not pleasant to be reminded that there might be another, better, you around someplace. It is terrible to hear this kind of sentimental longing for your old “fun” self especially when you are (for whatever reason) not feeling particularly “fun.”

I think that both my daughter and I excel at being “fun.” The thing is, it’s hard to keep it up full time. But when we are fun, we are so fun that any sort of un-fun concern about sharing toys, grocery lists, or a small complaint about the neighbor’s smoky outdoor fire pit are thrown into relief against a background of circus colors and confetti.

Years ago, I drove a 1964 Nash Metropolitan. It was a cartoon of a car and so cheerful with its red and white paint job and jaunty rear-mounted spare tire that people smiled and waved when I drove by. Complete strangers held ten-minute conversations with me in parking lots. It was lovely, though at times, exhausting. I felt constant pressure to be in a good mood. I traded in the Nash for a grey Honda Civic and never felt guilty for my occasional darkness again.

I don’t want Sadie to be stuck in a Nash anymore than I want that for myself.

“I can see why that hurt your feelings,” I said.

I hugged her and gave her more tissue and made more sympathetic noises.

I sometimes long for the “fun Sadie.” The nearly-eight-year-old is a ball of stress and anxiety and hysteria. But then, so is the nearly 44-year-old. And we are both going to be just fine.

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