I’m not sure if she’s the one who needed me, or if it was the other way around.
As a baby, she slept in a little cradle that wasn’t quite close enough unless it was touching my bed. And still, somehow, it felt like she was too far away, so I slept on my side and held her hand between two of my fingers. Still, it seemed, she was most content with a snuggle, so I laid her on my chest, where her heart could be comforted by mine as she napped.
The cradle has been gone for a few years now, but she still wants to sleep right next to me. And I’ve always loved that about our relationship, you know? I love that I’m comfort to her, I’m safety to her, I’m love. I’m home. When she’s tired, when she’s lonely, when she’s hurting, she snuggles with her mama, and everything’s a little bit better.
But there’s something I’ve been missing all this time… there’s something I didn’t understand.
Days ago, I was getting ready to be out of town for a couple of nights.
“Just two sleeps,” I promised my sweetie. And naturally, she had a handful of questions.
But around that time, we stopped on the road to grab a bite to eat. Burgers and apples and fries were shoved to the sides to find what mattered: the toys. (My kids are four and almost six, and they’re in that stage where toys are absolutely everything.) After discovering a tiger and a panda, they discussed and negotiated and thought through which of them should take which animal. My little girl was thrilled with the panda, and I hoped it would keep her happy enough for a little while that she wouldn’t think too much about me being gone.
She looked out the window and bird-pecked her french fries, her panda still in the other hand. And then, looking back at me, she wondered, “Mama, where are you going to sleep? Who are you gonna snuggle with?”
I told her I’d be on my own, and reminded her that she’d have her brother and Daddy at home.
She looked down at the new toy in her hand and thought for just a second, then raised it up toward me.
“Here, Mama. You can take my panda. She can snuggle with you.”
And that’s when I started wondering just how long my little girl has been taking care of me.
How long has she known that to me, she is comfort, she is safety, she is love, she is home?
So quickly she responds with snuggles to my sadness or pain, and it always makes everything better.
I guess, from the very beginning, I thought she was the one who needed me.
But maybe the truth is, all this time, it was the other way around.