The day of I was upstairs, taking my time getting dressed. Sophie was in her bedroom, singing a song while moving her princess dolls around her room in serious play. Andy was downstairs with Owen and James.
The strappy blouse I chose to wear had a tiny, fabric-covered button that went through a tiny loop in the back. Because of its location, I’m unable to button it myself. I was just about to holler down to Andy for help when I heard Sophie attempt a high note in her song.
“Sophie?” I called.
She stopped singing. “Yes?”
“Can you help me with something?”
She came into my bedroom.
I explained to her what needed to be done, asked if she could help. I felt her fumbling through the pleats and ruffles of the blouse. I reached back, feeling for the impossibly small button.
“Here,” I said. “This is the button.”
I reached some more.
“And this is the loop it needs to go through.”
“OK,” she said.
She pulled the two sides together, tight. And then I felt them soften.
“Is that too tight?” she asked, with concern.
“No,” I said. “It’s supposed to be like that.”
She pulled again. I helped. I could feel her tiny, soft fingers on my bare back, grabbing for the button, reaching for the loop.
“There!” she said, pleased with herself. I expected the blouse to come slack again. I expected failure. But it remained tight. She accomplished the small task quicker than Andy ever had.
Sophie then took out a couple strands of my hair that had come caught underneath one of the straps. She fixed my bra straps on both sides, so the straps of my blouse covered them.
“There,” she said again. “That’s better.”
For five years I’ve been mothering this child. Her mothering me, if only for two minutes, was unexpected. She helped me do something I could not do alone. And then she threw in some acts of kindness, some brushes of love—she preened me and fretted over me, just like a mother often does.
For two minutes, our roles reversed.
Sometimes the smallest acts take up the largest amounts of time in my brain—during my early morning walks back from Sophie’s school, while stirring sauce in a pot, while in bed waiting for sleep to come.
This week I’ve found myself thinking about Sophie buttoning my date-night blouse often.
“And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.” —Joni Mitchell