The clock turns midnight, my eyes heavy from the pressure of a sweet sleep as the blankets provide a cozy refuge from all the day’s activities. I shift to the right, the side I prefer to sleep, and breathe a deep sigh, settling back into my slumber. Not two minutes have passed and I hear the little steps of my daughter running toward our bedroom.
She announces in a megaphone voice, “Momma, I am going to the restroom.” I mutter something unintelligible as she walks toward our restroom and then eventually back to her room. Night after night, it is always something. It is usually a small request or statement, a glass of water, an extra blanket, or she needs “the” stuffed animal. I not only suspect, but know, that she looks to me and her father for reassurance. It can be a small gesture from either one of us, a pat on her back, a blow-kiss or a hug to quiet the fears she won’t verbalize.
I’m certain I was warned about the sleepless nights and the other ways that having a child would change life. I’m not certain, though, that I was prepared for this unconditional love. It’s all encompassing at times. My daughter is happiest when she shares my space. When I am typing or writing at my desk, she is nearby, about two feet away from me coloring one of her pictures. If I step out to throw away the garbage, she opens the garage to ensure I am coming back. When I atten a writer’s meeting, she waits up, only able to sleep after I tuck her in. Even after I reprimand her for coloring on the couch or wasting her cereal, she maybe upset for a split second, but the very next minute, she is saying “I love you, Momma.”
I worry when this unconditional love will end. When she realizes that I am not the closest thing to God, but only human. I saw a brief preview at the doctor’s office this past week. For several days, my daughter was complaining of abdominal pains and so after the fourth day of the same complaint, I decided a trip to the doctor was needed. As she lay on the table, she looked to me for comfort, her eyes asking if her stomach would feel better soon. She asked, “If I go to the doctor and she checks me out, I’ll feel better. Right, Momma?” I could only nod my head and agree with her not wanting to disrupt her perception of things. Her stomach eventually felt better, but the very next day, she said to me, “Sometimes some hurts don’t get better, right?”
I didn’t know how to respond, the weight of her words placing a tight pressure on my own heart.
I suspect her unconditional love will end as she gets older, the sharp force of knowledge and reality erasing innocence. For now, though, the sleepless nights are something that I treasure, knowing that unconditional love resides in those midnight wake up calls.
What acts of unconditional love have you witnessed from your child? When do you think that children start to learn about conditional emotions?
Image by AlicePopkorn
It’s a difficult point when your children realize you are human, too, but also a liberating one when they know you can’t make all things better. They start becoming responsible for themselves which is good but also sad. This growing up and letting go thing is hard work!
My has your daughter has inherited your way with words- I got teary at the “sometimes hurts don’t get better” part.
Glad to hear that she’s feeling better.
You know what I think? I think she’s right and wise to acknowledge that some hurts don’t go away. But I also think that, although it is something we can neither control nor bet on, the unconditional love of our children is not some far-off dream. I think it is a closer reality than are fear-filled hearts risk projecting. As we watch these kids grow and change, we are filled with worry dread, knowing the world out there and how it is and how it changes a person, manipulates a person.
But, and maybe I can only say this because I come from a very strong family dynamic, I have to believe that the unconditional love I have for my children is reciprocated past, future and present because we carry the strongest ties that bond: mother and child. There’s just something about their love that is hard-wired, you know? Like they can’t escape it, no matter how much we mess up. I don’t know. I’m still thinking it out in my brain….
What an interesting question – when does the unconditional turn conditional? When do our little ones learn that we are only human? I don’t know. But I love this post for it reminds me to cherish things I might otherwise instinctively curse. This time with tiny creatures is fleeting, but it is so full of love. I vow to soak it up. Or to at least try.
Sometimes, I wonder how my children can possibly want to still be around me when I am so often grumpy. Usually, these are the days when I was up in the night with one or all of them, comforting and nurturing and wiping. But they do want to be with me, and I am consistently awed. I certainly feel like I don’t deserve it on those days, yet they continue to show me love and to be content in my (cranky) presence. I know it won’t last. It can’t. It’s not supposed to. But I know I’ll miss it, even if I frequently fail to appreciate it now.
I think the day our children realise that we have feet of clay doesn’t have to mark the beginning of the end of unconditional love. When I first held my daughter in my arms in the hospital delivery room I knew, with absolute certainty, that I would love this little person until the day I died. So, I’m sure, the reverse can apply. My girls are adults now and I feel exactly the same about them today, even though I do recognise that of course they too are fallible.
If you have an open and loving relationship with your daughter (as I’m sure you do) then there is no reason why she would ever see you substantially differently. Yes, she will know that you don’t have the answer to everything but it won’t ever stop her coming to you for comfort, love and advice.