Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Gift

"Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons."
Ruth Ann Schabacker

It’s 8:30 and I’m late putting the kids to bed, as usual. We read a story. We say prayers. I shuttle Josh off to bed, answering his myriad of nightly questions concerning the time at which he can get up. I walk back into Jillian’s room to tuck her in.

“I love you,” I say, giving her a hug and kiss.
“I love you, too” she answers back.
I switch off the light.
“Mommy, do you have time to snuggle me?”

It’s a request that comes nearly every night these days. When she first posed the question a few weeks ago, I immediately envisioned the pile of dishes in the kitchen. I recalled the mountain of laundry needing to be switched from the washer to the dryer. I pictured the myriad of toys strewn throughout the house. I had so much to do before I could go to bed. I was so tired. But I looked into Jilly’s pleading eyes – I saw the hope and expectation on her face. And I found myself saying, “Yes.”

I climb into bed next to her and snuggle her in my arms. I watch her chest rise and fall rhythmically. She lays there silently, her brown eyes darting about the dimly lit room.

“What are you thinking about?” I ask.
A smile creeps across her face. “Barbie Island Princess.”
I smile too.

It’s funny the things that go through a 5-year-old girl’s mind -- thoughts fly fast and furiously before sleep settles in. Barbie. Fairies. School. Friends.

“Mommy, Nathan said mean things to Lindsay today,” she whispers.
“Oh? What did he say?”
“I don’t remember exactly. But I told Lindsay beautiful secrets to make her feel better.”
“What kind of beautiful secrets?” I ask.
“I said, ‘Lindsay, you are my princess.’”
“Jilly, that was very sweet of you. You did a good thing, comforting your friend like that. Did it make her feel better?”
“I think so.”

It’s in these moments, laying here with her, that I sometimes feel I get to know my daughter the best. It’s in these moments that she shares things with me she rarely has the opportunity to share amidst the chaos of the day. In these moments, there is no baby to be fed. There is no little brother competing for my attention. There is no telephone call to pull me away. I am 100% focused on her.

Jilly turns to face me and grabs my hand, bringing it up to her cheek. She closes her eyes. I lay there staring at the face of my baby girl. At five years old, most of the baby is gone now. But in these moments, as she flirts with sleep, her hand grasping mine and her teddy bear tucked under her arm, I see glimmers of the helpless infant she once was.

"I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you, too.”

I've come to see this time with Jilly as a gift -- one of several gifts that I'm convinced God offers to me each day. Trouble is, I'm oblivious to half of them. I'm too busy making dinner. I'm too preoccupied with scheduling a playdate. I've got to go fold laundry.
But these gifts won't be offered to me forever. Every day, Jillian needs me less and less. She can wash her own hands. She can pour her own drink. She can fasten her own seatbelt. In a few years, her schedule will become crowded with schoolwork, sports, activities and friends. The tables will no doubt suddenly turn and I’ll be the one left asking, “Jilly, do you have time…”
So for now, I forget the dishes. The laundry can wait. The toys will only be taken out again tomorrow. In this moment, I choose to put everything else on hold and receive the gift being offered to me. In this moment, I will untie the ribbon, open the box and savor what has been so freely given -- time with my daughter. Time to know her and understand her. Time to be her mother and her friend.


Anonymous said...

This was so incredibly sweet and touching. I can just picture you and Miss Jilly! And it brought tears to my eyes as I'm sitting here with my two little girls . . . *sniff*

-Lori H

mah-meeee said...

Jumped over to your site from Superhero, Monkey & Princess site. Love this post! I totally enjoy my time with my three year old when she wants to cuddle and tell me all sorts of stories (which might or might not make sense.) I can already picture the day when she's gone and won't need Mommy's cuddles anymore!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post!! This is my first time leaving a comment on a blog....I had to tell you how touching this story was to me! It brought tears to my eyes as well.


Kristen said...

You are a fantastic writer! This post will be a treasure to Jillian when she is older. What a touching and well-put parable about where my priorities need to be! I just spent 20 minutes cuddling with my boys before I launched into chore mode and it was totally worth it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for writing this. It was a nice reminder/refresher for me. I find that all too often I turn down moments to cuddle my oldest two because the youngest two demand so much of my attention. I think I may need to work harder to not make them feel passed over.

I do try to spend "special" time with each of them, because these moments are precious. And, as you said... all too soon the tables will be turned.

~ Amy @ Memoirs of a Mommy

Domestic Spaz said...

I never got to read this post before so I'm so glad you linked to it again. How incredibly sweet! I'm sure I miss out on so many of these moments, thinking of all the stuff I have to get done.

Bethany said...

I love your site! While I was reading this I got a little teary eyed. What a wonderful gift. I hope that one day I am blessed with a child and am able take advantage of that wonderful gift, also.