People are always wanting to stop or slow time. They forget that that’s what slow dancing is for. I’ve danced with Noella since the day I knew she was there, tucked inside my belly. I’d put the headphones on my belly and sway. When she was a little pink bundle, we’d cuddle-sway-dance, if you will, on the couch after nursing, her head on my shoulder as we rocked side to side. She’d dance in the evenings with Shawn after a long fussy day, needing a place to rest her head.
Nowadays she’s in my bathroom with me every morning as I get ready, her entourage of toys and stuffed animals scattered on the floor. I’m usually trying to rush-blend my eye shadow and finish getting ready while baby sister’s napping and I have a window to look slightly more human again. I ask Noella if she wants music and she says, “Yeah!” and we listen to whatever the mood plays for us. Lately she’ll grab her blanket, and her baby doll, and her water bottle and say, “Nance?” trying to lift her arms for me to pick her up, but since her arms are so full, it’s a cute awkward chicken wing flap kind of move. I am reminded that the days are going quickly, so I stop whatever stage of the face game I’m in and I pick her up. I hold her tight and we dance. Her two years flash before my eyes, a flip book of a million little memories, and I think of her future at the same time. In the sweet moment I’m also reminded of yesterday. It wasn’t a good moment. It’s not one I want flashing before my eyes as we dance. I got so frustrated with her about something I yelled at her and made her cry. How could I? She was in the way when I was trying to clean out the fridge (the last thing any human wants to do) and she kept closing the fridge doors when the produce drawer was open, and it was about to break as she slammed the door against it, the new dog was yapping, Shilo was waking up too early from her nap, I kept running into Noella, nearly stepping on her, she wasn’t listening, she wasn’t moving, and finally it was the selfish straw that broke the overwhelmed camel’s back. And I yelled at her. It wasn’t an upbeat little, “Mooove, please!” like a warning signal, it was an angry sister yelling at her little sister to get out of her room kind of yell. “MOOVE!” Of course this was far from the first time I’ve overreacted and instantly regretted it. How could I?! She’s little. She’s learning. She’s only two. She ran out of the room and it broke my heart. I called her to me, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to come at first. I got down on my knees and hugged her. I asked her to forgive me. And I cried, ashamed of how quickly my selfish nature can take over, ashamed that this wasn’t the first or last time I’ll react without thinking. I told her that I didn’t make a good choice, and that I was so sorry. She was over it faster than I could get back up off the floor. Oh, the grace of toddlers. Oh, the grace of God when we least deserve it. That is, after all, the definition of grace. Something offered that we do not deserve. She smiled and said shyly, “Mama. Sorry.” And I was. I told her that we can ask God to help us to be kind, to be patient, that he can help us forgive, and that he can help us make a better choice next time.
The next morning when we danced together, it was a dance of forgiveness, a dance of second chances, a dance to celebrate a new day, new mercies, a dance to begin again (because we can!), a dance to revel in the reality that we’re all human, but that God’s grace and power are there for us when we reach out for them, a dance to freeze time and enjoy that she can still fit in my arms, her little head on my shoulder, loving me anyway.