Sometimes I have to remind myself my daughter is only seven. She’s been an old soul since she was born. I remember her looking at me in the hospital with these big eyes that seemed to look deep inside of me as if she needed me to make a pact with her. I was her mom, she was my daughter, we were in this together.
As an infant, she’d insist we carry her around the room and let her look at things, something she managed to convey at only a few weeks old. My husband and I both did it—we could tell she wanted to see everything and as she got older, to touch it. We’d carry her through the living room putting books and knick-knacks into her hands just so she could feel them.
When my son was born just a year later, she was immediately a big sister and a big helper at only 12-months-old. It seems impossible to imagine a 1-year-old being helpful, but she was. She used to gently bounce him in his chair or bring me diapers or give him kisses when he cried. She never went through the terrible twos or tried to put things in her mouth like a typical toddler. She’d give me a look when someone would baby her too much like, “Is this guy for real?”
She just knew things.
As she got older, she kept that role. She continued to act more mature than she could have been. One day, I picked her up from preschool when she had a substitute. The teacher pulled me aside and thanked me, telling me how my daughter had helped her know exactly what they were supposed to be doing and when. She couldn’t have gotten through the day without her.
And when we went for kindergarten orientation and some of the kids were crying about going on the school bus, my daughter found the ones who were upset and helped guide them onto the bus, gently holding their hands.
Now as a 7-year-old, she comes home from school and says things like, “She did this, but I know she didn’t mean to.” Or, “I could see on his face that he was upset even if he was pretending not to be.”
As a parent, I’ve learned to trust her, her accurate analysis of personalities and situations. She sees not just what people are doing, but why. And her empathy is deep . . . she’s the one who can understand both sides of a story without them needing to be explained.
My parents don’t live near us and when they come to visit and leave, she’ll put her little arms around me and say, “It’s OK, Mom. We’ll see them soon.”
How can this small child have such a great understanding of complex situations and feelings?
But every once in a while, I see the 7-year-old. When she does cartwheels on the lawn, giggling until she falls over. When she blows dandelions making wishes. When she needs her lovies to fall asleep. When she wants one more hug before she gets on the bus.
I remind myself not to take advantage of this old soul in a little body, to not give her too much responsibility and to let her be a kid. To remember to treat her like a child sometimes and not to hold her to the highest standard in everything because sometimes she just doesn’t know better.
She seems wise beyond her years, but she is still learning.
But mostly, I appreciate how God gave me this wonderful little person who understands because I need her as much as she needs me.
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