I had laid her down in her crib as usual, but tonight my 1-year-old wasn’t going right to sleep like she usually does.
Instead she popped back up and made her request in that achingly sweet voice only possessed by kids just learning to talk.
“Mommy rub Lily’s hair,” she said again, this time nodding her head yes, perhaps hoping I’d imitate her and nod yes as well.
“Would you like me to stroke your hair before you fall asleep?” I asked, although it was an unnecessary clarification.
“Yes! Yes!” she replied excitedly.
Gently rubbing the back of her head, stroking the baby-fine hairs that reach only a little past the base of her neck, is something I’ve been doing more and more recently—but never as part of our bedtime routine. Yet she was requesting it now, with a clearness and specificity that made her seem much older than her 20 months.
I want to tell you that I immediately saw the moment for what it was: an opportunity to steal some extra cuddles with my baby-who-is-no-longer-a-baby.
But I did not.
My mind raced to the pile of dirty dishes that extended far beyond the sink onto the counter, the laundry that sat wet in the washer (growing smellier by the minute), the work emails I’d put off answering for so long it was becoming unprofessional, and, yes, the Facebook updates I was excited to check out.
Because I wake up at 5:15am each day, the little time I have between putting my kids to bed and getting to bed myself is precious. That night, I didn’t really want to hang out by her crib for an extra twenty minutes.
“Mommy rub Lily’s hair!”
I lifted her out of her crib, and I began to stroke her hair. The moment I started, it all changed.
Maybe it was the darkness of her nursery that made it so easy to focus only on the sensations and the emotions.
Perhaps it was her tired head so heavy on my shoulder.
Or maybe it was the calming rhythm of my fingers gently combing through her wispy-thin strands.
Whatever it was, I forgot my to-do list and simply melted into the experience of holding my daughter.
I memorized the weight of her body in my arms. I synced my shallow breaths to her deep, peaceful ones.
For those few minutes, inhaling her was my heaven and holding her my salvation. Anything else could wait because what could possibly matter more?
As she grew heavier and heavier in my arms, I held on and kept melting—until I was jolted back by the thought that there’s no guarantee this moment will ever happen again.
Maybe tomorrow she’ll make the same request but this time something will actually be more pressing—some deadline or catastrophe or dreaded obligation will force me to peel myself away from her.
Or maybe tomorrow, in the blink of an eye, she’ll be a teenager rolling her eyes at me rather than begging me for a soothing touch.
What we have, right here and right now, is the only certainty.
Which is why I am so very, very glad that at least this time, I stroked her hair anyway.