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