“I will help you, my Mama.”
“Oh my dear girl, you already have. You already have.”
I was doing a simple task, just moving one piece of furniture to another spot. Not a heavy piece, but I had to put it down to get it around a corner. My two and half year old daughter comes over to me, grabs my hand and tugs me down to her level then places her other hand on my cheek and says with an amount of concern and love in her eyes I did not even know a toddler to be capable of: “I will help you, my mama.”
I squeezed her tiny little hand, wrapped my other hand around her tightly, hugged her and kissed the top of her tiny warm head and thought, “Oh my dear, you already have. You already have.” But I said, “thank you, my baby.”
As we maneuvered the object around the corner, now a little bit more cumbersome with the help of those tiny hands and watching out for those tiny feet, I was struck by all the ways this tiny human had, in fact, so truly already helped me.
My daughter has helped me remember to slow down. Rushing through every daily routine, or rushing out the door, or rushing through the grocery store even means we miss times together, times where she can ponder the world around her and her place in it.
My daughter has helped me realize that children love naturally but have to be taught to hate. Her best friends at daycare don’t all look like her. She hugs and plays and tumbles and laughs, shares meals and toys and nap spaces with all of them. Strangers that are bigger and also don’t look at all like her, she gives waves and smiles to equally. I can continue to teach her to love and understand and know that I too have the responsibility to NOT teach her to hate.
My daughter has helped me to take risks. She sometimes needs my hand to jump from a higher height. She sometimes needs me to pick her up and brush her off when she falls, but she always goes for it! Without knowing it, she has taught me that I must continue taking risks and “going for it” too.
My daughter has helped me see that being scared does not mean we are weak. The world is a sort of scary place and we have to find ways to navigate through it. She has us, her parents and her friends whom she adores, to help her make choices – to watch them and learn from them and us, and be less scared of new things, new places, new people, new experiences. Adults have this too, in our partners, our families and our peer groups – we can be scared and still forge ahead as long as we are there to support one another.
My daughter has helped me remember that naps are important – we all need a reset once in awhile. At the end of a busy work week, grading papers, making dinners, getting my workouts and marathon training sessions in, and spending quality time with my husband and my daughter, I’m exhausted. She might be the perfect child, who tells us when she is tired and ready for a nap, but what that has taught me is to recognize when a recharge is needed. And napping with her on a Sunday afternoon is magical too!
My daughter has helped me love more. I didn’t think my heart could hold as much love as I now know it is possible and my love for her has strengthened my love for her dad too – our marriage and our love is stronger in our shared love for her.
My daughter has helped me feel better about my body. I do not care that my “mommy body” doesn’t look like my 21-year-old body. I housed a human. I grew a tiny, amazing little girl inside of me and helped her enter this world. My body is strong and I am proud of it. This doesn’t mean I don’t work continuously to keep my body (and mind) healthy and strong – I do. My health and fitness is a priority. But I am not ashamed that I am still working on it, I am empowered by that. In many ways, I am more proud of my body now at 40 than I ever was when I was younger.
My daughter has helped me stay connected to the present. She hasn’t reached the point yet when she’s worried about something from yesterday. I hope that she never gets there.
My daughter has helped me enjoy the simple things in life. Bugs, the birds that fly overhead, the sound of a horn honking, the colors all around. She notices and loves them all, gets excited by new things – but not “big” things. In a world where technology and flash is so prevalent, I am glad that she reminds me of the beauty of sidewalk chalk and skipping.
My daughter has helped me laugh more. Toddler giggles. I think that about says it all. I think I have laughed more in the last two years than I had for an entire five years prior to her birth. I feel lighter. Happier. And yes, even younger. Laughter is definitely medicine for my soul and laughing alongside my daughter completes me.
My daughter has helped me remember my manners. I do not have to remind her to say please, thank you, excuse me, I’m sorry, or bless you. Wanting to be model of that good behavior, I think I’ve even become more courteous myself!
My daughter has helped me see clearly the only thing really is important in life. Love. Really, simply put, this is all she really needs. If I can remember nothing else that she has helped me with, this is the best, the only lesson I need from her.
So when I looked at her little face concentrating so intently on helping her mama move a piece of furniture, brow furrowed and fingers curled tightly on the handle, and I thought of all of the ways this small, tiny, person had made such a big impact on my life already, had helped me so much already, there was a moment when I almost couldn’t breath. And then she smiled up at me and I smiled back and I knew, for the rest of my life, we would always be helping each other.