Nothing, I learned, brings you into the present quite like holding hands. The past seemed irrelevant; the future, unnecessary.Catherine Lowell
It was 12:05am and we had just dropped her friend off at home.
My daughter, with her Frozen PJs on and Troll’s blanket wrapped around her, wore a look of dejection.
You see, my daughter had been asking for a sleepover for months. I had hesitated for months and then finally caved. Her sweet little friend came over. Packed school bag and a packed overnight bag, even her cute little bunny made the trip.
They had spent the evening running around at another friend’s house for his birthday party. They sat around the big bonfire roasting marshmallows and playing games in the paddock. Making true and wildly present childhood memories.
This culminated with a toasted cheese sandwich, PJs and late night stories before I tucked them into bed on my daughter’s floor.
She was just in heaven. A birthday party + marshmallows + late bedtime + a friend sleeping over. She had asked from this for months, and I think she got even more than she could have imagined.
At 11:45pm her little friend woke us up, with what appeared to be the start of gastro. We stripped the sheets, popped her into the shower and made a late-night call to her mom.
Ainslie was devastated. She started crying and begged to come with us while we took her friend home. So, all four of us, the two bags, the bunny, Troll’s blanket, and a plastic lettuce container (just in case) came with us for the midnight run home.
Ainslie looked at me after we dropped her sick friend off and said with an aura of sadness, “Well, that was not a great sleepover.”
I could feel and sense the disappointment. The words that she could string together at midnight with a 4-year-old sense of processing.
I ached for her because I know that she had been looking forward to this with deep anticipation and excitement. I spun around in the car and said to her “What do you need from me right now Ainslie?”
She paused, with her sleepy little gaze, and said: “Can you hold my hand?”
I reached my hand back and held her sweet little hand and then she settled.
It reminded me of a couple of important things. The first being able to voice our disappointment when things that we had imagined do not go as planned or turn out how we wanted them to. The second is that we are able to voice it, but not become devastated by it long term.
And lastly, the moment that she put her little hand in mine was a deep reminder of the power of being present in emotions. Of offering a hug, a hand to hold, undivided attention with people. So often it’s the presence that we’re all craving to help us process what feels uncomfortable or challenging at times.
We held hands the whole way home, I picked her up, kissed her good-night and off she went to sleep.