There's that moment when you realize it's your little one's bedtime. It's a sigh of relief because soon you'll have time to be you again. The you that you used to be. You can sit on the couch or call a friend or just breathe, really and truly. No one else needs you and the tension in your shoulders will slowly start to release.
You nurse and you rock, bedtime stories read and lullabies sung. You put her in her crib and try to walk out. But then a little head pops up and a whimper is heard. 'Momma' is uttered plaintively and you know that tonight, that time you get to be you is going to be delayed. So you sigh, your shoulders still tight, and turn around. Shh you whisper. It's bedtime. There's a note of panic in your voice that you try to disguise in the hush. Back patting, hair stroking, nothing is working this night.
Dejected and a bit defeated you lay on the floor next to the crib. Try as you might that toddler does not want sleep. She wants you. She wants to see you, the woman she relies on for everything, that's been buried in work and her cell phone all day, too busy to really look up. Sure, you did stories and played hide and seek, but your eye was always on the clock, counting down until you could answer those work emails on the couch, take a sip of wine and just be off for a bit. So you lay in the darkness as she talks to herself. She keeps looking up, locking eyes with you to make sure you're there, still, always. Minutes tick by and you can feel the tension settling in. There's so much to be done and these minutes mean you'll be to bed later and you need sleep. But here you sit.
Finally she rolls over, you hold your breath, waiting. Then she does it, she sticks her hands through the crib bars and reaches for your hand. You put your thumb in her grip, and her whole hand pulls you, closer and tighter. 'Momma' she sighs, this time contentedly. And it hits you like a fist in the heart. That all this angst, this yearning, this over working, this being sad about boys who disappear or aren't the guy you hoped for, this constant stress of go go go, none of it means anything. So you look at her hand around yours, and you exhale, you relax, you forget everything else but the feeling of her hand. You watch her tiny blonde head bob, her eyelids flutter, her rosebud mouth relax. But you still keep holding that hand. Because there is nothing else you would rather do, in this lifetime or the next, than be there when she needs you.