Today is a guest post from my friend and writer, Jessica McCracken.
I’ve been waiting for this.
18 months of waiting for this.
Walking in the parking lot at Walgreens holding Zoe. She puts her arms around me and gives me a hug, lays her head on my shoulder, pats by back and coos at me.
Unrequested. Uninitiated. Of her own volition. Of that crazy, complicated thing we call free will, I am the recipient. And it’s beautiful.
She’s been giving kisses and hugs for awhile now when asked. She gives them when given to her. And she’s been a big fan of the “pat” for awhile now, which is evidence that your kids pick up so much that you don’t even know you’re doing. Apparently butt-patting at bedtime is something I do frequently because lately she takes my hand, moves it to her bottom and starts the patting for me.
And of course, we have the hugging and kissing when we are scared. When we are tired. And we can’t forget the hugging and kissing that comes when we are being naughty or we want to be naughty.
But this is new. This hugging and kissing and cheek-to-cheek lovin’ of the last few weeks.
And I’ve been waiting for it.
As we walked to the car and I basked in her love, in the security it brought, in the sheer utter joy of knowing I was loved by the most precious person I knew, a thought came to me. I got to remember this. I got to remember that it took 18 months to get here. 18 months equals this. ‘Cus there are going to be some more 18 months of waiting …. waiting for it. The “it” will change but the waiting won’t.
I got to remember that this moment is all about those other moments. Moments of sleep deprivation. Moments of sore breasts. Moments of trying to get my child to take a pacifier just so she’d sleep. No, just so I’d sleep. Moments of midnight feedings and 2 a.m. feedings and 5 a.m. feedings. Moments of snot wiping – on the Kleenex, on the crazy soaked-saline-made- just- for- babies- nose -wipes, on the couch … on me. All those moments of worry: is she eating enough, does she weigh enough, am I holding her enough, am I letting her alone enough, do I let her cry and work it out, do I get her and comfort her, am I scarring her for life? All those moments of guilt and things we don’t share as a mothers because of fear some other mother will think us horrible or self-righteous: I let her sleep on her belly at three months, I didn’t take the bumpers out, I slept with her in bed, I made her baby food, I gave her a bottle, I fed her formula, I envisioned what would happen if I let her fall off the deck – as in if I intentionally dropped her.
There are more moments than I can name or count.
Moments of loving and admiration for my husband who does laundry, cooks food, changes diapers, does bed time and plays with her. Moments of complete irritation at how amazingly stupid he can be and if I have to tell him what to feed her and how to feed her I might as well just feed her myself! Moments of missing him and moments he could have slept down the road at the Super 8 and I wouldn’t have cared. Moments when I was sure I saw the future: me, the wicked mother who doesn’t understand and never does anything fun and him, the always fun, calm and available father. Moments when I knew that we would sit under the covers, eating popcorn in bed, whispering secrets that Daddy could never understand.
And there’s been a lot of new moments lately.
Moments of broken door on NEW dishwasher because booger butt thinks she belongs inside dishwasher. Moments of saying no and no and no and no. Moments of chasing after. Moments of removing her or a toy. Moments of dead weight dropping in a parking lot. Moments of standing in the kitchen next to me while I cooked dinner screaming and screaming and screaming. Moments where she has already walked down the hallway and gone into her room and shut the door on me when things didn’t go her away. Moments of screaming at bedtime and throwing our Bunny, our pillow, our blanket – and if we manage to yank it off – our sheet out of the crib. Moments of not caving in. Moments of not cracking at a grin when she is being naughty because it’s so dang cute. Moments of not overreacting.
And it’s all these moments I have to remember.
It’s these moments that have led to a little girl being secure enough and capable enough to express, of her own desire and free-will, love.
I have to remember.
Because soon we will be potty training. I foresee lots of moments: accidents, repeating that our toys don’t go in the potty more than once. I foresee her being frustrated, scared or thinking it’s a party. I foresee me being frustrated, scared she’ll go to Kindergarten in pull-ups. I see no possibility for party in cleaning up the pee or wiping of butts, not matter how cute.
I have to remember.
Because soon, they tell me, she’ll be putting on make-up, texting boys, and slamming doors. And there’ll be moments. Moments she’ll hate me. Moments of repeating, “You are NOT going out of the house dressed like that!” Moments repeating the same directions endlessly: turn off the lights when you’re not in the room, don’t leave your shoes in the middle of the floor, put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, clean your room, take out the trash, do your homework, where’s your homework and of course, just plain NO!
And I have to remember when I want to cave in, when I want to stand in the kitchen and scream, that I’m living for another Walgreens parking lot moment.
More than one in fact.
Walking across the podium at high school graduation.
40 years of a good marriage.
My grandchildren giving their Mommy hugs in parking lots.
I’m living for moments even sooner than that.
The first time she has the choice to lie.
The first time she has the choice to do good and get screwed for it.
The first time she screws up and chooses to come clean.
Of her own volition. Out of her own free will.
Because she has basked in a thousand moments.
Jessica McCracken is a writer, mother, wife, student, and speaker. When she’s not working in the Young Adults Ministry at her local church, going to school or taking care of her daughter, Zoe, you can find her at http://jessicamccracken.com/