It was a quick conversation with few words exchanged. I was just at her house to pick something up. I should have been there the day before, but with a sick toddler and a recovering pre-schooler and a mountain of post-holiday laundry, I had completely forgotten about the pickup. My brain is missing more often than not these days. I apologized to her for the inconvenience and told her both kids had been sick and with the holidays I had simply just forgotten. She smiled and got a familiar, faraway look in her eyes as she said, “I remember those days.”
Those four words said so much more. Her kids are now 15 and 19. Yet here she was with fondness remembering the days of staying up all night with sick kids, checking their temperatures, repeatedly brushing her fingers across their forehead just to make sure the thermometer was correct – because we all know that mom’s touch can be just as accurate. Slightly warm forehead, no flushed cheeks? It’s only 99.5. Glassy eyes, flushed cheeks, forehead hot to the touch? It’s 102.
To my tired, forgetful mind those four words and the look in her eyes were comforting strength for the journey. I’ve heard those same words said with the wistful, faraway look many times before from moms further along in their motherhood. There’s something precious about these baby/toddler/preschool years – an innocence, a neediness that endears us yet exhausts us all the same. We desire for their independence yet struggle against it when they request it all the same. Somehow, deeply, we intuitively know that one day they’ll be able to handle their own colds and fevers and take care of themselves through the night. While we desire that end result, we also dread it all the same. And we always secretly hope that even when they are married they’ll call for Mom’s help now and then. Slowly, the reality sinks in that Motherhood has no finish line, only varying phases. That reality, even in exhaustion, brings contentment.
I dragged my tired self home and looked at my glassy eyed two-year-old with renewed eyes. I brushed my fingers across his forehead. 100.5. I snuggled him a bit and breathed in the scent of his hair. While hoping he’ll fondly remember these moments when he’s 20, I reached for the tylenol and kept walking the motherhood road.