When I was younger, I had a dream. It wasn’t my only dream—I had plenty of career goals, financial aspirations, romantic daydreams. But one of the things I deeply wanted was this: to be at least one child’s “person.”
There have been kids I have had a special relationship with all my life. Babies who sat near me in church, much younger cousins, etc. With all of them, I held them, changed their diapers, played endlessly. However, when the chips were down, those babies always wanted their person.
Maybe the person was a mom or dad, maybe it was a grandparent. In any situation, it was the person who was their emotional support. Their main caregiver. The person they trusted above all others. No matter how much they liked me, when those kids smashed a finger or got startled, they shoved me out of the way as they ran to their person.
When my nieces came on the scene, I got really close to achieving my goal. With both of them, I developed a bond that was a unique mix of big sister and part-time parent. I became sort of a stand-in person for them. They ran to me above all others . . . unless their parents were there. Then it went back to the same old story. Because, no matter how much they loved me, I still wasn’t my nieces’ person.
Then, finally, my son was born. From the first moment, the bond between us was unbreakable. I was his person. Yes, he loves his Dada, and my husband has always done an outstanding job loving him and caring for his needs. But for those first few months, Mama was his lifeline. I nursed him, I rocked him, I bathed him, I dressed him, I soothed him. When he would cry, people would hand him back to me. Because I knew what to do, and he trusted me. Because I am his person.
And then, I realized something. Being a child’s person is exhausting. Because here’s the thing about being my child’s person. I am his emotional support. I am his main caregiver. I am the person he trusts above all others.
Sometimes I just want that extra hour of sleep instead of worrying about another feeding. Sometimes I want my son to let someone else console him when he bumps his head or gets scared. Sometimes I feel like I don’t physically or emotionally have one more ounce to give to another human being—even this child who is indelibly stamped on my heart.
The implications of being my son’s person hit me hard last fall when he was hospitalized with RSV. What started as a mild sickness quickly escalated to life-threatening levels, resulting in my 14-month-old baby being put on a ventilator and spending nearly two weeks in PICU.
This was the most frightening and exhausting time of my life. My husband and I weren’t even allowed to leave the hospital together because they asked that one of us stay around in case “fast decisions needed to be made.” Even though my son was surrounded by a caring, capable medical team, I couldn’t rest because every alarm, every automated beep from the machines, every cough or wheeze from my son brought me racing to his bedside.
During this time, my son needed his person more than ever. I spent so much time by his crib holding his hand that he began to reach through the bars anytime he was agitated or frightened. I would decide that he was settled enough for me to sit down with a book or a snack, but, within moments, that tiny hand would reach through the bars again, waiting for me to hold it.
And you know what? No matter how hungry, how sleepy, how physically exhausted I was, I walked back to that crib and took his hand. Because I’m his person.
I am his emotional support. I am his main caregiver. I am the person he trusts above all others. And . . . I realize how blessed I am to be needed. To be wanted. To have that level of trust with my child.
The day will come when my son will expand his tiny circle of trust outward. It won’t just include Mama and Dada. There will be grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Then there will be best friends. Favorite teachers. A girlfriend. A wife.
I’ll always be important to him, but I won’t be the sole keeper of his trust or the only one who can console him. So, I think I’ll savor the late nights. I’ll gladly cuddle him when he is crying. I’ll hold that tiny hand anytime he reaches for me.
Because, for now, I’m his person. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.