She asks me each night with an impish grin, “Mama, can I have your hand?” It’s part and parcel of bedtime, this game of gentle tug of war.

“Just let me hold your hand, but you’ll be too tired to pull, so you’ll sleep here.” Her eyes shine, big and bright and as perfect as they were in those early weeks of hours spent gazing at her . She quivers with an implicit, “C’mon, mom.” I say ok.

Holding hands, I lean toward the door, she makes campy moves to fall out of bed, I swing toward the bed, back and forth we go until I stop.

“I’m too tired. I. Need. To. Sleep,” and I collapse (delicately) over her. I feign magnificent snoring and thrashing, she laughs with her whole body.

It’s perfect and yet some nights the ugly secret I try to keep secret rears its nasty head.

I don’t want to tug. It’s been a 14 hour day and I had set my sights on being done before 9.

I dont’ want a request beyond what I’ve said we’d do. I want someone to let good enough be good enough.

I don’t want to be held or cried for and I hate myself for it.

I make nice with people during the work day, I banish the futile worry about petty crap that I can’t control and I juggle the balls I create as well as those flung at me.

We do dinner and homework, playtime and reading. We talk about our day, but somehow at bedtime my elasticity fades. Brittle and jerky.

“Mama, can I have your hand?” she asks. “Sure, Fin, go ahead, take my hand.” I bend a knee ready to lurch spectacularly for the door before being pulled back. I sway, she pulls me back.

When I begin to sway again she says softly, “It’s ok mom, you can just go,” as her fingers slip from mine and she lets my hand go, she holds my gaze and then turns to her pillow.

The cat’s in the cradle…