By Kimberly Zapata
A few nights ago, around 7:30, my husband and I began our daughter’s bedtime routine. He drew the bath as I washed yet another sinkful of dishes. He scrubbed her and cleaned her as I collected toys, and then I brushed her hair.
I helped her brush her teeth.
My daughter then left the bathroom to grab a few stuffed animals and a handful of books — as she does every night. She brought them into our bed (Mommy and Daddy’s bed that is) and we laughed and read. We snuggled, and she made silly faces.
After we finished the third story, I told her it was time to go to bed.
I scooped her up in my arms and carried her to her room.
We each gave hugs and kisses and said our goodnights, but she was unhappy. She was unsettled, and I could hear her whining as I closed the door.
I could hear her crying over the baby monitor three minutes later, and then four. Finally, after five minutes of whimpering, sniveling and sobbing, I went into her room.
I asked her what was wrong.
She explained that her boo-boos hurt, i.e. three mosquitos bites she had acquired earlier that day. She asked for medicine and ice and her “boo-boo buddy.” When I said no and suggested that she try to ignore them, she asked me to snuggle her.
“Just lay down,” she said.
“For a little bit,” she implored.
Initially, I hesitated — I had work to finish, bills to pay, dinner to eat (yes, still eat!) and laundry to put away — but after a moment, I said OK.
I smiled and bent down.
She “made room” for me, shifting from one side of her toddler bed to the other and placing a single stuffed animal above her head, and I crawled in beside her.
I drew the covers to our chins and we lay still in the dark.
At first, my mind was busy — and full. I was reviewing my to-do list, so I wouldn’t forget any of my evening tasks. I was crunching numbers and attempting to figure out how this “break” would impact the rest of my night. Would I still have time to watch Comedy Central or HGTV or would I be working until midnight? Would I be unable to get a solid six hours of sleep? But after a minute, I too settled. I felt the weight of my hand on her little chest, and the warmth of her body. I heard the soft whisper of her breath every time she exhaled, and its sweetness enveloped me, enrobed me, and swallowed me whole.
Before I knew, five minutes had passed.
Before I knew it, ten minutes were lost.
But still, I didn’t leave. I couldn’t leave, because I wanted to soak up this moment. I wanted to keep watching her in the dark.
You see, while on this night I “lost” time — me time, free time, and work time — I gained so much more in the silence, in the darkness, in those still and motionless minutes.
I was able to be present, fully present, with my little girl.
I was able to snuggle her and hold her and truly grasp the weight of her body, and the weight of her being. I was able to take in the weight of her life.
I was able to appreciate the “little things” I often fail to notice, like the size of her body and her feet — which both belong to a young girl now — the length of her wet hair, and her new “toddler smell,” which is a strange combination of Baby Magic, bubblegum toothpaste, Oreo cookies, farts, and Febreeze.
I was able to hear her when she asked me for help, when she told me what she needed.
I was able to stop and listen to the importance of her words, and her pain, and give her the safety and comfort she yearned for.
And I was able to hear the most genuine “goodnight, Mommy; I love you” I have ever heard.
Make no mistake: I am not always this present. Sometimes work happens or life happens, the “threenado” happens, and some days are just rough. I am snappy and short, overworked and overstressed. But today I got lucky.
For fifteen minutes, I was #blessed.
Because sometimes it isn’t what we do that matters — sometimes it isn’t about what we accomplish or how many tasks we check-off of our to-do list — sometimes it is about sitting and being. Sometimes it is about nothing at all.