Something marvelous has happened.
Something so marvelous, I don't even want to scream it from the rooftops. I want to talk about it in hushed, sacred, solemn tones.
Come a little closer, dear reader. Let me tell you about this beautiful, wonderful thing...
First, do you remember that I became a kidmom (#kidmom, if you will)? That I woke up one day and my chubby faced and chubby hand-ed little snugbug had sprouted overnight into a beautiful, tender, compassionate slender necked little girl? The next day, she asked me to tell her the whole truth about sex. The next day, the whole truth about death. And the day after THAT, she went to Kindergarten. Or at least thats how it felt to me. Like, it all came really fast. A slow rolling little snowball (think those LONG days that made up your child's first year of life) that just kept moving and kept growing and now it feels like it is barreling down the hill and is way too big to stop.
Which, of course, it is... too big to stop, I mean.
Okay, but listen to me. REALLY listen to me. I used to hear people talk about their precious, delightful, beautiful children and I thought that I mostly understood that.
I mean, parents love their kids. I get it.
Then, we had a baby. Our little snugbug who captivated us with her first tiny smile and made us giggle and we were totally in love and I thought "Oh, I didn't understand before but now I really understand because I am just so in awe of this precious baby." She became a toddler and, in spite of her refusal to speak when spoken to and, in spite of her really powerful stink eye and, in spite of the moments when she literally seemed more hormonal than a 13 year old girl, we still believed she was delightful and I thought "Oh, THIS. I thought I knew what unconditional love was before but, no. No, I really didn't know. NOW I know. In spite of all the shenanigans, she really is the most lovely child and I'd do anything for her."
But now. Now, my friends, listen to me. She actually IS delightful. Like, you would agree with me! Like, not just Trevor and I and Nonna and Papa think she's delightful, but, like, strangers and stuff! All you sweet mamas of babies (who are physically incapable of thanking you) and toddlers (who wouldn't thank you even though they could), and 4 year olds (who don't know if they are here or there or what the heck is going on), hear me say this: just hold on. To quote Wilson Phillips, "HOLD ON FOR ONE MORE DAY!" (Or for however long it will take for your child to turn five.)
Five is truly heavenly.
Which brings me to my original point.
Remember when I said that one day Laila forced us to tell her the whole truth about death? Well, she didn't actually force us. We've decided we'll never lie to our children and that, in age appropriate language, etc, we'll answer their questions honestly so we, I guess, forced ourselves. Well, the original conversation about death happened about a year ago but Monday night just before bedtime and out of nowhere, Laila asked me "So, Mommy, do our bodies disappear when we die?"
Instantly, I broke one of my own rules. I gasped. It sounds dramatic, I know, but the question was so surprising and also, honestly, unwelcome (just go to sleep, for heaven's sake) that I made an audible sound in response.
In the very next second, I imagined her imagining that one day one of us might just disappear into thin air and how scary that thought would be so I turned off my instinct to run and, instead, I chose to engage.
"No, my love. When a person dies, their body stays here but their spirit goes to heaven to live with Jesus."
"And will we all die at the same time?" (She has asked this question so many times, ya'll. She is so dang smart, so dang intuitive, the idea of being in Heaven with Jesus but without Mommy and Daddy isn't comforting, it's terrifying!)
"Sister, we don't know when we'll die. Eventually, though, yes, you and Lydia and Daddy and I will all be in Heaven together."
For the moment, she was satisfied. We hugged, kissed, preformed our secret handshake and I walked out, thankful to be a step closer to a glass of wine and snuggle time on the couch with Trev.
The next morning, she confided in me. "Mommy, I didn't like it last night when I asked you a question and you gasped."
I bent over, put my face close to hers and said, "My love, I am so sorry that I gasped. I was surprised by your question and wondered why you asked it but I shouldn't have gasped. I am so sorry. Please remember that you can always ask me anything. Anything, anytime, anywhere, ok, love?"
Then, off to school she went. That was it. She expressed her disappointment in my reaction, I apologized and then affirmed something I've said over and over. "You can ask me anything." All in the space of 90 seconds.
That night, the marvelous thing happened.
Before bedtime, as she was applying toothpaste to her toothbrush, Laila looked up at me and said "Mommy, I learned something today."
"Oooh, tell me!" I said
"I learned that I can ask you anything. Anything, anytime, anywhere."
Ya'll, my heart swelled. The angels sang. I did a Happy Mommy Happy Dance in my head. I mean, all of a sudden, it just all became worth it, you know?
She heard me. She hears me. She listens.
WHAT I SAY MATTERS, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!
So, to you, dear friend, allow me to say to you:
Your children hear you. They are listening.
What you say matters and (thank you, Donna Golden, for this next part) HOW you say what you say matters.
Just a touch of advice: Don't give up on the little moments. Don't tune out during those final moments of the day. Stay engaged. Cling to patience and grace and keep preaching your message to your kiddos.
They are listening.
They are impacted.
You are heard.