Still sitting by her bedside, I reached over and held her soft small fingers again. A smile returned to her rose petal lips, her eyes fluttered shut. Soon the steady rise and fall of her breathing began to lull me to sleep. I gently extricated my fingers so as not to disturb her. Slowly, slowly I inched away to leave.
“Don’t let go, Mama!”
Awake! This time I took a deep breath. I thought she was asleep! We were replaying this scene out, night after night lately. I was large as a barn, pregnant again. I knew with a new baby in the house, things wouldn’t be the same. I wanted to give my toddler all the love and attention she would miss when she had to share me with a newborn. She’d been the baby of the house for three years. But changes were coming. I needed to cherish every moment with her, before those moments were filled with diapers and nursing and the demands of a baby.
So I reached out, and intertwined her tiny little hand in mine again. “Okay, Dear. Close your eyes. I’m right here…” I could do this. What else was this important? The laundry?
Again she calmed, breathing relaxed. She squeezed my hand, to reassure herself that I was still there.
“I love you, Mama.”
“I love you too, Dear.”
Night after night, the dishes stayed stacked up after supper. The laundry got piled up too. But I knew that the dishes and the laundry would be there forever. And she would not. I needed every last hug, and every moment that she wanted to hold my hand, I wanted to be there. The day will come, I thought, that she won’t need me so much anymore.
I was right.
She did grow up quickly, right before my eyes.
And you know what? The dishes and the laundry are still here with me.
My child, the one that is so dear to my heart, she is growing, and soon she will be gone from this little spot we call home.
If I had had different priorities, my house would have been cleaner. Our laundry would have been whiter (or even folded and put away). Better food might have been served at our table. She might have had a different life, a more organized or tidy life.
But instead, I held her hand as she fell asleep. I learned to pray at her bedside. I became kinder and more patient. And eventually, she grew to not need my hand to hold, to scare away the monsters and help her fall asleep. Most of our lives, we are not strong enough or brave enough or smart enough to fight off even our own scary demons. But for a very short moment in a child’s life, Mom and Dad are all-powerful, and with a simple act of hand holding, we can make everything all right in the world.
I don’t regret a single moment of holding her hand.