Thursday, June 29, 2006

My Little Girl, My Butterfly

I had just put my daughter down for her nap. As soon as she sensed what was going on, she began to voice her dissatisfaction. I was lowering her little, fragile body into her crib, signifying naptime. No sooner had her small frame touched the tiny mattress, than she was already working her way to full cry. Always the softy, this is where I usually cave and pick her back up and hold her in my arms. She never succeeds in avoiding a nap altogether, but her protests do help to delay the inevitable.

Today, I would not be the softy. Rules are rules, and naps are naps. She could just cry her little angry wail and like it or not, she would tire herself out and find herself laid out in her crib, green blanket and white burp cloth at her side, sleep prevailing as it always does. Mr. Tough Love would not give in this time. My back to her as I moved toward the door, I knew I was doing the right thing. One more step and I would be at the door frame, winning the little battle played out by sleepy toddlers and their parents all over the world. I took one quick look back toward my angry little butterfly. She was clearing the crib rail like a gymnast her pommel horse.

Her upper body strength had conspired with her absolute refusal to be left alone in that crib and she was doing what I didn't think possible. Like a fish escaping the unrealized safety of its bowl, my little girl was diving to the hard floor away from her soft mattress, blankets, and teddy bears. Of course, everything I am moved as fluidly and quickly as imaginable to catch this most delicate of my cherubs. Turning, closing the distance between us, and reaching out, I grabbed my littlest, my very precious, maybe the slightest frame of time later than perfect. Her head made contact with our carpeted but hard floor. My hands had found her waist and maybe prevented the impact from being harder than it might have been. Nonetheless, the sound of her noggin hitting the floor tore through me with a panic.

Now I was sitting on the floor with her, trying to assess the damage if any. She was crying at a volume unrivaled by past attempts, but it seemed to be more out of fear than pain. She was moving around just fine and I was holding my baby and thinking how lucky we were. After a few minutes of patting her on the back and comforting her, she settled down and stopped crying. I looked back at the offending crib and noted that yes, indeed, there was one more notch left for lowering the mattress. Two days before we take it apart for the move, we'll have to take tools to it to lower it for two more nights of safe sleeping.

For the next 15 minutes or so, I just move about the house, tending to some basic duties, all the while holding Ari close to me; naptime can wait. We've just been through a lot. She deserves to put some time between The Fall and the inevitable nap. After a lot of Daddy kisses, I take her back up to try again, this time in her toddler bed. And I'll stay by her side until she falls asleep. That's the new deal between us.

As she lies on her stomach and I rub her back, I notice a huge mark just above her waist. It's a scratch mark, evidently left by me as I had grabbed her tightly, trying so hard to stop her fall. The room is quiet now. She is awake, but lying peacefully in her bed. I finally take the time to think about things. That mark is the story. It's the love and the fear, all moving at once. It's my happiness that she's fine. It's my tears that I wipe away right now, knowing that she will always be my delicate little girl, no matter what her age. I can't promise that I will always be able to catch her in life, but she can always count on me to hold and comfort her. Always.

Father And Daughter
by Paul Simon
(click to hear)

I believe the light that shines on you
Will shine on you forever
And though I cant guarantee
Theres nothing scary hiding under your bed
I’m gonna stand guard
Like a postcard of a Golden Retriever
And never leave till I leave you
With a sweet dream in your head

Im gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So youll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you


Sam Davidson said...

Excellent piece of writing. Thanks for sharing.

Momo said...

Absolutely beautiful. It took my breath away...

Your daughter is incredibly lucky to have such a caring father.

Dirk Plantinga said...

My wife had almost the same exact experience last night with our 15 month old daughter! It amazed me to read your story as Lyn related essentially the same one to me as I was lowering the mattress to the bottom notch. You're not alone :)

gnightgirl said...

Oh, this scared me to death; as momo said, took my breath away too. I'm so glad she's ok, and you're ok.

She's one lucky little girl on several accounts. Can you imagine her reading this when she's all grown up?

Beautiful writing.

melusina said...

What a beautiful story. It made me think of my own daddy, who still tries to protect me, even if he is 7k miles away.

Linda said...

That's heartbreaking! JJ hasn't rolled over yet, but it's about to happen... and he'll take a dive off my bed or the changing table soon, unless I'm careful. They grow up so fast!!!