Bitter, sweet

Last week I bought tickets for Mark and McKenna to go to a daddy/daughter dance. She is six now. This, the first year she is old enough to go. The nice woman at the counter asked how many tickets I needed and I had prepared myself for hating this part. Two tickets were all I bought but I needed three.

I needed to not be standing there, holding the hand of my living six year old daughter with a free hand to pay and dig through my bottomless purse for keys. I needed both hands to be holding one from each of my girls who should be just about the same height right now or I needed them both to be empty because my girls were flitting around the room, practicing spins they would do with their daddy.

When McKenna was young I practiced being fully happy for her. When she walked I tried to cry only sweet tears but they came out bitter anyway. I picked out her dresses for Christmas and Easter and wrestled her hair into pig tails when it was barely long enough and made sure I was behind her a bit so she couldn’t see my eyes disagreeing with my smile.

If Hadley were here, there is a good chance she might not like pig tails or refuse to wear a dress and maybe she would have a hockey game the night of the Daddy/Daughter dance. But I don’t get to know for sure and I don’t get to have my hands full.

This morning we (sort of) took Sawyer to preschool. McKenna helped him inch his way into the art room and a well-meaning classroom helper asked the kids their ages. My anxiety-stricken daughter, who rarely speaks to anyone, told this woman that she and her brother are six and the nice lady exclaimed at how fun it must be to have a twin.

I let the comment go because I can do that now but McKenna corrected her, telling her they are triplets. And when she asked where the other one was, my daughter explained that her sister is in her heart so she can bring her everywhere.

I sat there on my preschool chair made for a three year-old’s behind and my eyes glazed over as they have for so many of McKenna’s moments. I didn’t have to wish away bitterness this time, I felt nothing but sweet gratitude for all she has become. Her beautiful self, most likely, a mirror image of what her sister should be, taking perfect care of the piece of my heart that left us so long ago.

surviving triplet



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  1. says

    McKenna is so wise and thoughtful – just like her mom. She gave the teacher the most perfect answer. I think I have written this before but I love love the McKenna and the wings picture. How did the rest of Sawyer’s 1st day of preschool go? xoxo
    Lanie recently posted..Unsubscribed & Unprepared

  2. says

    Oh my goodness, Jess, this breaks my heart. You have such an incredible way to take us to your heart with your words–and I love so much that you are giving your kids the words to describe this too. And that picture…

  3. says

    I can’t help but wonder how different the boys’ lives might be were their sister here. I try to imagine and vanish quickly into a vortex of endless possibilities…
    That picture at the bottom of the post is perfect.
    Jenni & Andy recently posted..with them and for them

  4. says

    This totally made me cry! I completely understand this sentiment. I love how you have raised her to be so graceful about Hadley. I hope that Charis will one day answer in the same manner!

  5. says

    Touching post. It’s always a moment of pride and sadness when my one of my 4 year old surviving triplets corrects someone and tells them their sister Lydia is in Heaven. I too have a boy girl survivor and wonder daily what life would be like if Ava had her identical sister by her side.

  6. says

    I keep coming back to this today and not commenting and then I realized I didn’t want to NOT comment.
    I was filling out a similar form today. Our town has a parent/child dance, and really, that is so OUR town. Nothing can be nailed down as a daddy/daughter dance. I was contemplating who would go, and if it was too late at night for a four-year-old. And of course, I was trying to figure out if I should send my husband because I don’t want to go to it.
    Having our hands full – totally a blessing. You’re right.
    And McKenna’s answer was stunning.
    Tamara recently posted..On Planes & Monorail Trains.

    • says

      I love that you see the blessing in having your hands full for exactly what it is. I hope your husband and daughter enjoy the dance.

  7. says

    We’ve had one similar experience with our rainbow (3-years-old). As much as it breaks my heart that he had to tell another child that his sister was in heaven, my heart smiled knowing that he felt comfortable talking about his siblings

  8. says

    I love how McKenna responded to her teacher. Such wise and beautiful words for a 6 year-old. (I can tell she gets them from the wise and beautiful words she hears from her mama.) :)