I am her mama, and her little body fits perfectly into mine like a spoon. My arm draps across her pudgy bare legs,keeping them warm enough to stay on top of the covers but cool enough to be comfortable . The poor thing gets so hot in her sleep that I put her to sleep in simply a t-shirt and a diaper. I slide my fingers across her neck, pulling her long hair away from her and I spread it across the pillow. How and when did it grow so long? I remember that sweet peach fuzz she had as a baby, always thick with that baby smell. Now that blonde hair smells so sweetly of sunshine and dirt. Her cheeks are flushed red, her breathing even, and her little fingers move slowly in her sleep, being sure of her blanket.
By day, I worry. It’s in my nature anyways, but ever since I moved my growing girl to her twin bed, I’ve worried. Worried that she’s not ready. Worried she would fall out. Worried she’s scared. Worried we’ve transitioned her all wrong, that she still hates her big bed, and that she’ll never sleep through the night again, let alone until 8am. I stress over how to keep her in there…whether to spank her or not, lock her up in her room, discipline her, or simply stay consistent to the point of losing sleep myself. I worry that if we don’t figure this out…if we can’t get her to sleep on her own at bedtime or keep her sleeping all night in her own bed instead of crawling into ours…that we will raise a girl with no boundaries who will have trouble letting go of her parents and who will have trouble obeying simple rules in our family and who will be timid and shy and insecure.
But by night, my story changes. By the time I crawl into my bed at 11pm, I enjoy being stretched out in my own space for a few minutes before falling asleep. I usually only sleep a couple hours before a quiet shuffling or a whispered, “Mommy,” right next to my bed wakes me up. That soft hair silhouetted by the bathroom light, those wide and blinking eyes asking me silently for a hug, and the hesitant reaching of those little hands melt me immediately. I suddenly crave her presence next to me, especially on nights when daddy is away. Without even thinking (and some nights, without even waking up myself), I slide her into bed next to me. We both curl up instinctively. I kiss her cheek, she grunts a little sigh of contentment, and we fall asleep. When morning comes, she’s usually awake before me, laying with her legs in the air and watching her toes move in front of her face, waiting for me to wake. As soon as she sees my eyes open, she smiles wide, giggles, and starts telling me a story…about a dream, maybe? An angel she saw last night, one that we prayed together would guard her bed and protect her from nightmares? Or maybe just our plans for the day?
The one thing that spoils those sweet nighttimes aren’t necessarily the daytimes. It’s the things I concern myself with during those daytimes. Parenting and discipline and rules and milestones and my kid does this and when did your kid do that and I would never allow my kid to do that. What would other people think if they knew my daughter slept with us every night? What would other mommies think if they knew I held her hand each night while she drifted off, sometimes for over half an hour? What would other parents say if they knew that sometimes I let her get up for a snack in the middle of the night, sometimes even popping in a movie if we can’t sleep?..I would never dare admit it to other mommies, to the ones who are so consistent and who lock their toddlers in their rooms and within a week have toddlers who are amazing sleepers in their big-kid beds. I envy their steadfastness and firmness. I am a softie.
I don’t know why I crave so much affirmation as a mom. I worry I’m not the right kind of parent for this job, and I compare myself to other mommies. Maybe it’s because I am wired to need to know how I’m doing. From gold stars as a child to graduating with honors in high school to getting hired/fired/promoted based on my performance at jobs, I have always had a very clear idea of what my job was and how to do it. If you’re a parent, you know that this is mostly guesswork. So what is my measure now? (I NEED A GOLD STAR, DANG IT!) It certainly shouldn’t be how others parent. Yet that’s what I do. I take my eyes off my own blessings, my own family, my own circumstances, my own husband, and my own unique child, (and my own unique self!) and I compare to everyone else. That doesn’t even take into account factors I am not even aware of regarding other families and their choices.
I think if I stopped comparing and started counting my blessings, I’d be thankful my daughter goes to sleep in a twin bed fairly well for a 22-month old child. I’d be thankful she didn’t get hurt falling out of her crib. I’d be thankful I don’t have to be the perfect parent to show her love and to raise her. I’d be thankful she is a very spunky and independent girl who still craves cuddles and songs and playtime with mommy and daddy. I’d be thankful I have the resources to give her everything she could possibly need to grow strong and brave and smart. I’d be thankful for those oh so sweet nighttimes, the ones I will desperately miss one day when she’s grown and wanting to go out with her friends and won’t come home until 10pm. I’d be thankful I have a husband who is such a good daddy, so much so that every time Heidi sees a red truck (like daddy’s work truck), she yells, “DAAADDDDDYYY!!!” I’d be thankful I have at least three friends who would scale mountains for me, and I for them…we’ve babysat each other’s kids, exchanged phone calls and texts in the middle of the night when our newborns won’t sleep, and sent cards in the mail to remind each other we are good moms and that one day, this will all be worth it.
Life won’t be perfect. We won’t be perfect parents. We won’t be perfect spouses or perfect people. We won’t be in perfect circumstances. And we may not think we are doing our job as well as everyone else.Things may not be going the way we always pictured them, and we may not be as strong as we always hoped we’d be. But that doesn’t mean life isn’t still amazing and full of blessings and beauty and growth. We are the way we are for a reason. If we had a little more faith in ourselves and in the God who made us, we would clearly see we’ve been given so much. We could more easily enjoy our blessings and bless others.
All the grace and strength you need to experience joy and victory is available to you, but by choosing to complain, by clinging to the idol of a perfect life, you are flushing away the grace of God.” -james mcdonald
“I’ve felt two-left-footed with life in general. I replay blunders. I anticipate failure. I confess this to you: I compare myself to other women. And when I do, I fall on the short side of things whether it’s true or not. As a wife and mother, I see the holes, the shortcomings. I tally up missed opportunities. I repeat memorized Scripture, about who I am, about how I’ve been fashioned by God, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that will bring His Kingdom glory, here-below. There is no earthly yardstick, rating system, ticker or scale to measure that sort of thing. I confess how I have downplayed the inventive way that He molded singular me. I can feel it now, how when I shift the focus to Truth, anxiety drains away. The Lord didn’t ask for gold-star performances in this life. He didn’t ask me to prove my significance to the world. Or to prove myself to Him. He didn’t ask me to prove anything at all. He is the One who approves, declaring us beloved while we were yet sinners. He asks now only for my heart, my willingness, my hands—even when my hands haven’t seemed all that useful.”