It is 11:50 PM on Monday night. I'm tired and foggy-brained. My baby girl, who has complained of a sore throat since she woke up at 8:30 this morning is in a fitful slumber, and I hover here next to the baby monitor, bleary eyed. Our day together plays through my mind - we played Minnie Mouse bingo, Doc McStuffins Memory, and animal/number matching. I read her a few books, including The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton. Rylie adores that old story, for some reason, even though it's terribly long, and completely old-fashioned. She loves to run her little index finger over the swooping arcs of cars, subway trains, and suns while listening to me repeat the words she's heard so many times. I have to wait until she's done with her ritual before turning the page. Rylie, every day, is teaching me patience.
My darling girl is nearly fully potty-trained, yet insists that, each time she needs to go, I go with her. I get exasperated. Sometimes I raise my voice a bit higher than I mean to. I follow her into the bathroom, watch her asserting her independence, answer her questions about germs and poop. She is becoming her own little person. Rylie is teaching me tolerance.
Increasingly I realize that as much as my rapidly-growing toddler is learning from me, I am learning from her. Messy play is no longer cause for panic because it can be cleaned up when we're done, together. If it takes her a little longer than I would like for her to figure out a move in a game we're playing, why rush her? Her little brain is growing, making new connections, and soaking up her environment - she needs time to do that. When she wakes up a couple of hours before I would prefer to get up, I admit, sometimes I want to burrow beneath the covers and pretend I'm not there. And then I hear her little tread on the floor, in her soft footie pajamas, and I hear her voice whisper, "Mommy? My tummy's grawling (not growling, 'grawling'). Please give me something to eat and something to drink." No matter how sleepy I am or how my eyes are crossing I can't help but smile. I drag my butt up and kiss and squeeze that warm, sweet, tangled-hair baby girl so hard she giggles. Rylie is making me a better person.
Now, my baby is crying softly in her sleep. She isn't feeling well, and Mommy's heart is breaking. My beloved husband is on the couch snoring and my teenager is sleeping (I hope). It might be a sleepless night for me. But over there is the man I love and wants to share his life with me. Behind the closed door down the hall is a 13 year old boy awash in hormones and teenage rebellion who still needs his mom. And just behind the bedroom door that is opened a crack is a little girl, a burgeoning personality who commandeers my days and nights, runs me ragged, tells me she doesn't love me while laughing impishly, and grasps my heart tightly in her sticky little hand. I'm an imperfect human, an imperfect mom. But this is the life that I cherish and am ever grateful for. And Rylie...she's teaching me real love.