Oh, my girl.

Your face kills me today. Those usually upturned lips pressed into a tiny thin line, telling me at once that you are sad and angry.  Those eyes…God help me, those eyes…gorgeous and piercing and accusing. You love me, I know, but today–right now–you hate me. 

Because you want to go outside and play on this sunny, no-school day. And you think that when I say 'maybe later, if I can get this work done' I'm saying it because I'd rather be inside, doing whatever it is I seem to be doing on my computer, instead of soaking up the sun with you.

Because you don't know that no-school days don't mean no-work days, and that because your mom works from home it seems like she doesn't work at all. Because you don't know that deadlines still loom, and queues are low and that, with every passing minute, I'm worried that I won't have completed enough profiles to be able to submit a decent invoice come Monday. 

You don't know those things by design. I've tried to shield you from the harsh reality of a single mom's budget, and even though you don't have the latest gadgets like other kids or Justice clothes like some other girls and a fancy house with a garage like just about everyone else in your world, you're still oblivious to the fact that the bank accounts are sometimes anemic and that even though I'd rather spend all day with you, I HAVE to work.

I. HAVE. to. work.

Someday you'll understand this. Someday you'll look back and know that you were able to stay inside and watch a movie and eat popcorn and listen to music on your iPod and slam your bedroom door in disgust and pout in your very own room because I chose to work, and because I was one of the lucky few who can do so at home, with you here.

Someday you'll understand the push and pull of motherhood; the tightrope of being a playmate and being a provider, the fine line between loving and protecting that gets blurred more often than not but is still there. That line is unyielding. Unforgiving. Merciless in the face of ebullient little girls who just want to have fun.

Someday you'll understand that I say no not because I don't trust you to be outside by yourself, but because I don't trust the kid three doors down who's taken a few too many trips to juvenile detention and the neighbors we've never met and the cars that whip around our corner without a passing glance at the new stop sign.  I'm thankful, of course, that you don't see the dangers I see.  But they're still there.

Someday I hope those eyes will turn from hurt and sad and rebuffed to those of a grown woman who gets that her mom did what she had to do instead of what she wanted to do. Someday, when you look into your own daughter's face, I hope you have the freedom to say yes–a big, happy, without-a-pause YES–but if you find yourself in a position more similar to mine, that you'll give yourself a break. I hope you'll take solace in the fact that sometimes moms aren't meant to be loved in the moment, and that you're doing everything you can to make that little girl's world a better place to be. 

Because, my dear girl,  you're worth more than what I can give you right now. You're worth picnics and bubble storms and butterfly chases and ice cream cones and pushes on the park swing and lazy days spent feeding the ducks. And I'll get there, I promise; one of these days I'll surprise you with a big, happy, without-a-pause YES. Just stay my girl long enough to see it happen, okay?