I took Patrick and Lilly out for ice cream last night, and before we left, we watered the flowers in the front yard. They each have a little watering can, plus there's a big one that I can use to follow behind them and, you know, actually make sure each plant gets water. Their dad was finishing up mowing the lawn and putting things back in order while we did this, and their mom was inside packing for their impending beach vacation.
As Lilly walked onto the mulch to get at flowers close to the tree planted there, her dad exploded. He frequently berates the kids, and now that I'm not around it as much, I forget how much it pierces my heart.
"Lilly! Get out of the mulch! Look, you're stepping on all the flowers. See, there used to be a flower there, but you killed it, because you're tromping around in there."
I wish I was kidding.
She tried to explain that she was watering the plants. That didn't matter. No, he wasn't furious; he didn't hit her or scream. But I saw her face.
She's four and a half. I saw the crushed disappointment of a little girl who is being berated by her daddy. And then I saw what I know will come back to bite her parents - I saw the set jaw, the hard eyes, the stiff posture of a girl who's trying not to care. Who's closing off. Who's retreating inside herself.
I wanted to slap some sense into her father. He was too wrapped up in his flowers (in the appearance of his house, and life, truth be told) to notice what he did to his daughter.
But I saw it. And I can't quell the ache I've had since.