"Girl, you're too big to be held!"
As I held our second youngest child in my arms, I watched my girl's expression change from one of joy to one of shame. Her eyes fell as she started to wiggle down. Strangers had made similar comments before, but she never appeared to be bothered by them until now.
I kept on holding her, as my mind assembled a menu of possible responses.
I could tell the woman about the days my girl lived without a mama to hold her.
I could educate her on early childhood trauma.
I could go for the shock value of letting her know that I also hold my eight year old daughters and six year old sons when they need my security.
I could tell her how thankful I am to be physically able to hold my children, only possible due to successful management of my previously debilitating rheumatoid arthritis.
I could ask her to hold her tongue because her opinion on this only matters if I'm asking her to hold my daughter.
I could share research about the therapeutic benefits of good touches in child development.
I could remind her that many special needs aren't visible at a glance, so she had no way of knowing if my child needed to be held because of a disability.
I could snap at her to mind her own business.
But my daughter's eyes were on me. Her ears were listening. She needed to hear my answer more than anyone else.
"I'm the one holding her, and I don't think she's too big for a mama's love," I said with a smile.
I don't know if this woman understood all I was trying to say. I don't really care about that. I do care, though, about the grin that spread across my girl's face followed by the squeeze of her arms as she snuggled in closer.
The joy was back. The shame was gone.
Just like it is in my heart when God carries me.
The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place. (Deuteronomy 1:30-31)