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Kids Can Hurt You

Photograph by Getty Images

I remember the first time my daughter made me cry. Not new mother tears from being overwhelmed or overjoyed. I’m talking about the first time she made me cry because of sheer physical pain.

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She had developed a habit of flopping herself backwards with all her might. She was 10 months old and her head was in the 80th percentile, so when she flopped, she flopped hard. I’d become an expert at dodging her noggin, but one night my reflexes were too slow. Boom! Her head collided with my nose, and I almost blacked out from the searing pain.

I instantly burst into tears. Perhaps I was extra tired from working all day and still nursing most of the night. I don’t recall the particulars of the day, except that blunt trauma to my nose. I remember that.

My husband rushed into the room to find me sobbing into my hands and my daughter staring at me with a quizzical look on her face. After examining me, my husband declared that I would live and we both expected me to stop crying. Right about the time I expected the tears to taper off, they escalated.

I couldn’t stop crying.

Having an intimate relationship with my daughter was likely to bring both great joy and immense pain to my life.

In that moment, as my nose was throbbing and my daughter was snuggling with her father, I suddenly understood with great clarity that she had the power to shatter me. It wasn’t the nose thing—I knew I would get over that, even though it hurt pretty bad. It was the startling reality that this little girl who I loved with everything I had inside my imperfect mother’s heart could hurt me more than almost anyone in the world. My daughter with the penchant for head-butting would one day learn to talk and at some later date she would learn how to sass me. From those little lips, I would one day hear, Mom, I hate you. Those little hands would one day slam doors in my face and those feet would stomp away from me in fury.

She’s going to break my heart a million times.

I cried with the realization that there would be stormy days in the years ahead—days when I would give anything for something as minor as a nose ache in our relationship. I would have to steel myself for the challenging days of her toddlerhood, then those of her tween and teen years. Through it all, I knew we would love each other, but the days were undoubtedly coming when we didn’t particularly like each other that much.

The night my daughter knocked my nose was the end of my innocence, and my baptism into the very real truth: that having an intimate relationship with my daughter was likely to bring both great joy and immense pain to my life. When I finally stopped crying that night, my daughter crawled into my arms, her sweet warmth filling me up again.

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Today, when we have our troubling times and our only mode of interaction is a power struggle, I remember that night. I remember the softness that comes after the pain and the truth of our relationship: We are more than our hard times and bigger than the pain, annoyance, and frustration that we cause each other. Yes, we both have the power to hurt one another, and sometimes we do, but we can always get back to the love, which makes the entire struggle worthwhile.

Image via Getty

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