Living a Laugh-Cry

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we were both in the kitchen.  I was on the phone with Mom and she was playing with the toys in her drawer.  A few weeks ago, in an attempt to keep her out of our pots and pans (and because I have so far been to lazy to do any official, plastic-latch-on-the-cabinent-that-even-adults-can’t-figure-out childproofing), I emptied out one of our bottom kitchen drawers and filled it with Lil Mil’s toys. Now, when I’m in the kitchen cooking (or, in this case, sitting in the kitchen floor talking on the phone), Lil Mil has something to do. She seems to know that this particular drawer is her drawer, and she seems not to care that the toys inside it are the same ones she’s been playing with since she was old enough to play.

On Sunday, she was standing at the end of the drawer, removing its contents one by one. Mom was asking about her granddaughter, so my eyes were on Lil Mil as I described the delight with which my daughter had devoured her Thanksgiving meal (the girl loves her some cornbread). Happy to have my attention, Lil Mil let go of the drawer and walked towards me.

Walked. Towards me.

I immediately screamed “she’s walking!,” and Mom and Dad cheered. Lil Mil just plopped down on her butt and laughed, totally clueless that she’d just participated in a momentous moment, and not the least bit interested in demonstrating her new skill again.

I could not accept this. I had to see it at least one more time to confirm that it had actually happened. So I stood her back up, placed her little hands on the edge of the drawer for balance, then scooted back three feet and beckoned for her to come towards me. It took a little coaxing (okay, a lot), but eventually she did it.

This time, she knew she’d done something new and possibly important (perhaps it was all the wild shrieking her mom was doing). Beside herself with excitement, she collapsed into me and dissolved into uncontrollable giggles.

“Let’s do it again!” I said, standing her back up. She looked at me and kept laughing. Or was she crying? I studied her and couldn’t tell.

Slightly concerned but determined to confirm that I hadn’t imagined what just happened, I got her all set up and scooted away.

She stayed standing, clearly up for the challenge of Round Two, but that laugh was really throwing me.  It had this slightly maniacal quality, which matched the slightly maniacal look in her eyes. She was literally beside herself with emotion. As she let go of the drawer and wobbled toward me, the laugh morphed into a full fledged cry. But she didn’t fall or sit down. She kept walking.  And then, just like that, she was laughing again.

Joy.  Excitement.  Pride.  Bewilderment.  Uncertainty.  Panic.  Anxiety.  Fear.  I could see it in her eyes, she was experiencing all of these things at once, which is why a mere laugh wasn’t sufficient. But a pure cry wasn’t right, either.  She needed to do both.  She needed to laugh-cry.

And realizing that, I understood for the first time why this was a such a momentous occasion.  My daughter was – right now, right before my eyes – exceeding her own expectations.  It was freaking her out a little, but she wasn’t letting that deter her.  She was seizing this moment and walking the hell out of it.

Joyous.  Excited.  Proud.  Bewildered.  Uncertain.  Panicked.  Anxious.  Afraid.  Watching her, I was all of these things.  As she stumbled towards me and into my open arms, I was laugh-crying, too.

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