Daugther, you are mine to hold. Not my phone, not my stress, not the demands of the people all around me. Their requests will never end but your childhood will. This is the briefest moment. For the next short years, I am privileged to help you write the first chapters of the book of your life.

I want my chapter to say: She was there. She held me. She was mine.

I let you down today, daughter. I took a work call when you were crying. You’d fallen and scraped your elbow at the exact moment the phone rang, and while you howled for a Band-Aid, I took the call and ran away from you. You came after me and I moved you out of the room sternly and tried to close the door on you.

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What am I even doing? I wondered while doing it.

I’m pushing my kid away to maintain some fake professionalism with someone whose request could just as easily have waited while I cared for you.

Instead, I ignore you, daughter of mine, and ask the person on the phone if they could please repeat themselves.

I see your face around the corner of the door. Hurt and confusion plain on your tear-streaked cheeks, “Mommy, mommy, mommy.”

I’m cross with the person on the phone. I feel guilty.

I say to them after a moment, “I’m going to have to call you back, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry about the crying in the background. I didn’t think I’d have my kids at work today.”

They are patient. I should have known they’d understand. Why didn’t I?

As soon as I set down the phone, I run to you. “I’m so, so, sorry, honey. You needed me, and I wasn’t there.”

You sniffle.

“I’m sorry for crying, Mommy.”

“No.” I pull away from our hug, wishing my actions weren’t the reason you think it’s not OK to cry. I will not perpetuate this belief, passed down for too many generations. It stops here.

“No, no, no. Never apologize for crying. Everybody cries, even me. You were asking for help, and I wasn’t there. I’m sorry about that. I’m here now.”

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You evaluate me, your 3-year-old wisdom sizing up your 33-year-old mom in progress.

“Good job, Mommy,” you say with dignity.

I know you see me trying. and it’s good.

I try, I forget, trying again, better.

I hold a lot of things.

I forgot for a minute what matters most.

“Of all the things my hands have held the best by far is you.” -Andrew McMahon

You are a treat, daughter. I love holding you.