As a young adult, I’d been around kids a lot. I had worked as a nanny and in preschools, daycares, and camp programs. Then I had my first child, a girl. And she was as cute as a button! However, I soon found out that bringing home my own little person to care for was different from anything I had experienced. Plus, this child was nothing like me. She didn’t like to sleep…my favorite thing. She didn’t like to eat… also my favorite thing. And she didn’t like to ride in the car…I never screamed my head off during an entire two hour drive! The best way to describe her behavior is to say that she seemed to be really, really annoyed by the fact that she was a baby. (Now, when my second child was born, he spent a lot of time sleeping and rolling around playing with his toes. He enjoyed being a baby!)
Naptime and bedtime were daily battles with my daughter. I spent a long time reading, rocking, singing, standing on my head – whatever it took – to get her to close her eyes. When I was near exhaustion, she would finally drift off for her usual 30 minute nap! I developed the habit of bending over her when I was positive she was asleep and whispering very softly in her ear, “Mommy loves you so much.” I’m not sure if this was to remind her or me of my love after the prolonged agony of night-night time. Either way, I did love her so much at that quiet moment and wanted to tell her. It was a ritual that I continued throughout the years with my other four children.One day I eavesdropped on that two year old as she played with her doll. I watched as she fed the baby and tickled and rocked her. Then, when my daughter decided it was nap time, she put the doll down on a blanket. As I continued to watch, I saw an amazing thing. My daughter leaned over that baby doll and whispered in her ear, “Mommy loves you so much”! I couldn’t believe it! She was too young and too ornery to feign sleep when I was whispering those words in her ear! So, how did she know? I can only think that she must have heard me even as she slept.
I look back at all those child-raising years and remember the talks, explanations, and lectures I handed out to my five children. I find myself wondering if they heard any of it. Did they listen? Did they understand? You know, mothers worry about these things.
Then I recall that little two year old girl whispering to her dolly and I think perhaps they did hear. And perhaps they were listening when I said the most important words of all.