It was more than an hour past her bedtime and she appeared at the edge of our bedroom door. Again. It had been the same dance all summer. And my feet were tired.
What I really wanted to do was point my finger and march her back to bed.
But I knew one day she would stay in bed.
She saw my indecision and her lip trembled.
So instead I invited her to come to me. She walked slowly to the side of my bed. Her face streaked with tears and I knew she was afraid again.
As soon as I tenderly touched her, the sobs came and I held her. What is it baby? I whispered. And the what if’s poured out…
What if your car breaks down? What if you can’t pick me up? What if you don’t come? What if I am alone?
Her fear was unfounded, irrational–this fear of being left and forgotten. I tried to calm, convince, comfort. But fear doesn’t make sense.
And in the moonlight, I knew this fear was bigger than even a mother’s love. I longed to promise her the world, give her everything, except pain and heartbreak, and guarantee life wouldn’t allow her what if’s…
This moment-this was the astonishing hard place of motherhood.
Because I knew deep down from her first breath, the second the cord was cut, she breathed on her own and her first steps away from me came too quickly.
It happened with my own mother and I, she curled my hair every Sunday until I was 9 and then in a blink, I walked down the aisle into my best friend’s arms. I never looked back. Years later as I labored with this same daughter, my body racked with pain, doctors concerned, my mom chased my bed down the hall as they prepped me for an emergency c-section. Later she told me how she trembled and vomited in the bathroom…It was hard watching her baby have a baby. I can’t remember much about that day, but I remember her there for me. Always.
And I thought of this as I held my baby, trying to calm her fear, yet knowing life and love, living would come between the two of us. I’ve watched her older sister transform right before my eyes into a beautiful young lady and I can’t stop time or her steps away from me no matter how hard I try.
Last week my twin sister left her oldest daughter at college and I witnessed the gut-wrenching truth of letting your child fly. It’s a beautiful anguish, this growing up, for the mother and the daughter.
I looked my darling girl straight in the eyes and I spoke to her fear, the way a mother does with a daughter: I will be here when you sleep, when you wake, when you come and go. With every ounce of my strength, I will always be here for you.
Then Truth came because it must: And when I am not with you in bed when you can’t sleep or at school when you feel alone or when I don’t understand your fear, when I can’t fix your problems or protect you from mistakes, when your marriage is hard and your life brings sorrow and your feet are weary from the dance of motherhood, who is with you?
She whispered His name: Jesus.
Yes, I said. Because He gave you to me and I gave you back to Him.
And when I can’t be there, He is. Always.
For the first time in months, she slept like a baby.
Because no matter how tall she grows or how far away she flies, that’s what she will always be to me.