Very little matters to me at the end of each day and the end of this life, if my girls don't know and feel, clear to the cellular level of their beings, that I love them. If there was a way to genetically imprint this message into their DNA, I would.
I LOVE YOU.
Sometimes things happen and maybe it's as inconsequential as a rainy Monday when the errands didn't go right and I end up in tears when we get home. Maybe it's bigger and I vent frustration, and while my words are accurate, the timing or the delivery misses the mark and a little girl gets tucked into a warm bed -- safe, fed, yet short on the connection she's come to cherish in our relationship.
It was a night like that, after a rainy Monday like that.
I closed their bedroom doors, and went to rest, somewhere past the point of totally exhausted. I put them to bed early because after a rainy Monday when you're past the point of totally exhausted, it's the easiest thing to do.
But kids are just like adults, in that when things aren't right with their relationships, it can be hard to sleep.
Daughter #1 made a valiant effort -- lying quietly in her bed long past when I thought she was for sure asleep. Long past the point that Daughter #2 had been allowed back up for snuggles with the mama-with-the-half-mast-eyes.
There might have been a bit of classic Winnie the Pooh on DVD in the big bed.
I was ready to send them back to bed when I heard a little voice say, "I hate to tell you this, Mommy, but I'm hungry."
We went back to the kitchen. Sat back down at the wooden table inherited from my paternal grandma. Two little girls in pajamas, one holding a doll, one, a bunny, both of which are well-loved to the point of Real.
My legs throbbed from referred spinal pain. It felt more like 2 a.m. than 10 p.m.
I got out the toaster.
A gallon of milk.
Two small glass tea plates.
Something in my spirit shifted, and I set about making a little late-night snack of cranberry-orange toast and warm vanilla milk.
I told them memories of visiting my maternal grandma and how she would heat milk for me to sip before we turned in.
Their sweet faces brightened, and their eyes began to glaze with dreaminess as they munched their toast spread with cream cheese, and drank their cobalt mugs of steaming milk.
At that moment, I knew this was the right way to parent. This night, for these girls, these hearts. The right way to love them was to send them to bed with hearts dosed full with love and nostalgia, warm, full tummies, and snuggles in the rocking recliner.
I'm grateful for the times when bad days get second chances, and second bedtimes lead to sweet dreams.