it's hard to be eight

it's too much.
I have nothing to offer.
I can't fix it for her.
I can't go to school and help her tell the teacher when her stomach hurts.
or even really remember how intimidating it is to ask a stern teacher anything

i forget how big a school seems when you're asked to walk to your brother's class,
but you get mixed up and feel scared and lost and alone
even though the hall seems so so short to a grown up who knows
there is an adult at every corner willing to help you

but sometimes adult faces look tired and serious and weirdly wrinkled
like your mom's, but also not at all like your mom's.

she makes it through the entire afternoon playing with a neighbor
seeming fine until it all comes pouring out at bedtime.
at first i assume it's the tiredness talking and amplifying the hurt,
but it keeps pouring and pouring out
friends choosing friends, tests and worksheets,
walking laps at recess,
nosebleeds, and trouble with belt buckles,
and sharp words from tired teachers,
lists of stresses upon little stresses until i know they're real
even if only felt more strongly because of the late hour--

but they aren't fabricated
the challenges were too ready to announce themselves,
right under the skin
so close they came gushing out when i finally got still
and I wonder, how long have they waited to be released?
until i wasn't busy, or she finally really cried and i paid attention?

because whatever the answer,
the only certainty is that this is my fault,
all of it.
i am a mother after all.
we assume responsibility for every negative and no positives.

i just pat her head and think
i have nothing.  nothing to fix this.
your mommy isn't good enough for this
inept.
and i have to send you back everyday.

it's hard to be a kid when you're a kid.
it only sounds easy if you are an adult imagining returning to childhood.
only the ignorant or unkind would say it's easy.
life isn't easy, young or old
but she has to go back into the fray tomorrow.
and i have nothing.

so i tell her the truth.
which I'm afraid to do, because I'm afraid it will seem bleak, and unhelpful -- like something a parent says when they don't know what else to say, which is totally true. 
i tell her
sometimes i have really bad days,
but i don't usually have two in a row.
and i pray to ask God for a good second one.
so i do that for her.
and i list her stresses and say we'll put those in a box and in God's lap for the night -
they aren't her job anymore.
her job is to listen to her book on cd and only think about resting.

and even though i know it's true,
it feels paltry.
like nothing.

but it's everything.
if only You'll show up for us tonight,
so she'll know You're real and You hear and care.
so she'll try it again sometime.
everytime.