Open Doors

Galit Breen essays

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She’s too tall to stand, she has to sit in front of me now.

Her head is tilted forward, her bare neck peeks through the glittering cocoa locks splayed on her shoulders.

A well-timed wince here and there lets me know which brushstrokes are too strong.

I pull one strand over the other, sweeping my girl’s waves in an age-old mothering move.

I wrap a hair tie at the very end, twisting it tightly in place. She looks in the mirror, turning this way and that, smiling at her own reflection.

Our matching eyes meet.

Noting the bite of my lip and the crinkle of my forehead, she asks, “What’s the matter, Mom?”

“Nothing.” I answer, before she even finishes her question, brushing away a different kind of moment.

I wear my heart on my sleeve.

If we were to pass at the store or the coffee shop or at a play date, you would instantly know if I have worries or sads or mads swirling inside.

This is my best and worst trait wrapped neatly within one mystifying bow.

But when my children ask what’s on my mind, knowing with every fiber of their sensitive beings, that there is, indeed, something there, I close my heart’s door to them—every single time.

Another day, my girl makes her entrance known.

Her stride is wide as her feet pound into worn, beige carpet, each step announcing her bad day.

Mid-afternoon sun slides through the window, glowing in her background, framing our small space in this large room.

I look up to see the scowl on her lips and the hurt in her eyes that I already knew would be there.

I open my arms wide and pull her close from my spot on the bed. From this angle, she still fits here.

Nestling my chin on the top of her head, I ask, “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.” She answers, without even the slightest wait or pause or breath.

Door closed.

I definitely note this with a (humbling) pang as I tuck her into me a titch tighter. Inadvertently, I’ve taught her well.

And if I want her door to open, I have to open mine first.

At first glance, this is a gift I can give her. A lesson in identifying her feelings and being able to unabashedly own—and share—them.

But at second blush, I see that the gift on the table is actually mine to claim as well.

The magic offering within mothering’s outstretched hands is this. Parenting through things that we have yet to claim as “finished” about us, gives us the chance to learn a second time through.

But this time with older, hopefully wiser, hearts and eyes that are both open wider than they were in our youth.

I want to claim this present for both of us.

(I’m working on it.)

About the Author

Galit Breen

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