It was the counting by 2’s that got to me.
“Zero—it is zero, right?” Kya asked as she began.
“Yes, the even numbers start with zero.”
“Okay, zero-two-four-six-eight-who do we appreciate?” she chants and dances the way we’ve been doing for months. “Ten…ten-nine-eight-seven-six…”
“No, no Kya, you’re counting backwards now.”
“Oh!” she says with a grin and begins again. “Two-four-six-eight-ten-twenty-thirty-forty…”
“Wait…now you’re counting by tens. Remember, counting by two’s is just skip-counting. Just say our little chant. Remember our little chant?” Of course you remember our chant. We’ve been doing it for months and months and months on end.
Kya jumps right in, happily chanting all the wrong numbers. 12—14—15—16, she says at last, and I do not tell her she is wrong.
“Let’s write them out on paper,” I say instead. Sometimes, seeing the numbers helps, but today, she can’t remember which way a 10 goes, and she can’t remember what to call a 12, and she’s sure that 20 should have a three in it, somewhere.
She can’t do it.
She’s six-and-a-half and she can’t do it. Not today.
I take my heavy heart upstairs, and I think I will not cry. I will not cry. Not today.
But I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what is wrong, and I don’t know how to help. I have helped so many children, but I can’t help her.
It is agony. I want nothing more than to protect her from feeling stupid or slow or different. I want to hug her and tell her it’s okay not to know 1+0 or how many cookies you have left if you eat one. Just eat them all, I think, and then it won’t matter.
Because Kya is exceptional, and I want her always to know it.
Under her bright blue eyes and dimpled smile is a pure heart and tender spirit. Always caring, always attentive, always gentle—that’s my Kya. She is delightful, and delighted, in every circumstance. We call her our Sunshine in Seattle, because it’s always sunny when Kya is around.
She is also highly creative and so perceptive, it’s almost unnerving. Even as a baby, she could tell when something was different, something was new, something was off. It was her habit, every morning, to survey my wardrobe choices and give me her unrestrained opinion in the sweetest possible way; we nicknamed her “Quality Control.” She is witty. She is funny. She is the only one of our children who gets her father’s humor and the only one who can, so quickly, give it right back.
But she is also soft. Fragile. Vulnerable. It will not take much to crush her. Not much more than a stack of flashcards she can’t answer. And I worry about that, way down deep and in words I don’t want to say. I think of my impatience and I wonder, “Will I be the one to take it from her? Will I be the one to make her feel less than she is? Will my beautiful baby grow up to feel inadequate because her mother couldn’t let her be enough?”
That brings the tears out that I said I would not cry. That brings me to my knees and I beg, beg, God to make me more patient. Now.
When I come down from upstairs, Kya has drawn a picture for me. It is a page filled up with circles, each one filled up with a different pattern of beautiful colors. Her math page has been decorated with patterns and grinning people with legs and arms coming directly out of their heads. She doesn’t believe in drawing bodies.
She tells the boys all about it, but she can’t think of a word. “I can see it,” she tells them, “I just can’t say it.” Her sentences are filled with pauses and slowly spoken phrases as she tries to collect thoughts from a brain that can’t access words very quickly. When she was a toddler, she had her own language. It bubbled out of her in giggles and turned-around phrases. But she knows enough now to try to reach for words that sit just beyond her grasp.
Oh, how I love her.
She laughs at her brothers and her own silly words and they laugh too. She lets them answer her math facts and then lines them up to tell them Bible stories that are probably heretical and asks them questions that don’t make much sense.
“Paul, what’s first Genesis chapter six?” she asks.
Paul squirms uncomfortably in his chair because he has neglected his lesson.
“It’s God. The answer is God,” she says. “Micah? Mr. Micah? Do you know who made you?”
“Dod,” says Micah, because his tongue doesn’t quite say the things he thinks. Kya understands about that.
“Yes. God,” she says as hushed and holy as possible. Micah and Paul nod and try to remember that in this class, the answer is always God.
The answer is always God.
Who made you? God. Who knows your worth? God. Who created you just as you are? God. Who can be glorified in your weaknesses? God.
I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.
Because it’s one thing to believe it for me. It’s another thing to believe it for my babies. It’s one thing to come to terms with my own faults, but God—oh God! –it’s quite another to come to terms with theirs.
That requires faith, and on this beautiful day of motherhood, I find my faith is lacking. I find my mother-heart tempted to fear. I find myself worrying when I am told to trust. Trust. It is a beautiful thing to be able to trust my children to the God who made them, to see the missing stitch and give them back to the One who knit them together. It is a beautiful thing to know that love always adds up, even when the math facts don’t.