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jaguar tears For Toddler, Halloween festivities began this morning. Within minutes of waking up, she was transformed into her very favorite animal - a super cool jaguar - feather collar, feather-lined skirt, long black tail, jaguar ears. Her smile was vast as she danced around, sneaking bites of breakfast and chasing her little sister. When the time came, we hopped on the bus. She sat there next to me for the ride, well-behaved and quiet.

We walked into school, into a rainbow sea of little people prancing around in amazingly inventive costumes. We made our way to her classroom. This morning, we parents lingered a bit longer, snapping pictures of our kids on this big day. I got some good pictures and some very blurry ones because the kids were moving around so fast. I hung back, chatting with fellow moms and dads, watching the kids suss each other out and play. I was happy to be there, to witness this celebratory morning.

But then.

I looked over and Toddler was crying. Hard. Her sweet face was crumpled. I picked her up and kissed her cheeks. I wiped away her tears. I asked her if she was okay. Apparently, this had happened earlier this week too. Toddler nodded and wiped her eyes on my jacket. I straightened her jaguar ears and pushed damp hair away from her eyes. I told her it was a fun day. That she would have fun with her friends. I placed her down again and slowly she rejoined her classmates for a class picture. But then. Then it happened again. She melted. A puddle of tears. Her wonderful teacher scooped her up and carried her to me. I held her. I hugged her. Even harder this time. I asked what was the matter, but she wept silently into my chest. I asked if she felt sick. She didn't answer. I asked if she was sad. No response. Again, I told her that the day would be great fun. That she would run around and get candy with her friends. I put her down again. This time, she joined her buddies on line to head to gym class. She was quiet, but she seemed okay.

One by one, these little creatures trooped out of the classroom in a civilized line. Toddler followed suit. She seemed okay. I hung back, my heart a tiny bit broken, watching her go. I hung back because I had to and because I know she is okay and I need to let her work these things out on her own. I know that she is okay. She is.

But. I feel a bit sad and a bit sick. And, yes, I tend to get a bit worked up about very normal things that happen to everyone. I know that you are probably reading this and saying, Your child cried. Get over it. She's fine. I am saying these things to myself as I type this. I am. But still. I wish I were there with her, back at school, the school she loves, in her own little world, watching from the sidelines to make sure her smile is back. I wish I could know why she cried this morning and the other day, but I know I don't need to know this. People cry all of the time for no reason. I cry sometimes for no reason. Two-year-olds cry often for no reason. It's just that my two-year-old doesn't cry too often and never at school. So I worry that there is a reason and that as her mother I should know what it is. Maybe she was carsick from the bus. Maybe she was overwhelmed by all the parents in the classroom. Maybe something happened the other day with a friend. Maybe she is sad that her sister is getting so big and so bold. Maybe she is having delayed issues with separation. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

I don't know. And I won't. I do know that the plan was to sit down and keep my promises and fill you in on our home renovation and I simply couldn't do it. No. I couldn't sit here talking about the layout of our future dining room and whether we should swap the coat closet and the pantry, when all I can think of is jaguar tears. Tears that have fallen and already dried. Tears that will no doubt fall again. And dry once more. Tears that tug every ounce of me now as I sit at a Starbucks not far from school, pretending all is cool, waiting desperately for the hours to pass so I can log off and pack up and go see my girl.

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What do you do when someone you love is upset and you can't figure out why?

Candy Corn Chaos

ILI Interview: Author Shari Storm