It is early in the morning, the sun still waking up to light another day. I roll over and feel a twinge of pain in my back from sleeping in an odd position, wedged between my husband, two cats, and our five-year-old girl who crawled in our bed sometime in the middle of the night. When I roll over, my little girl wraps her arms tightly around me and nuzzles into me. “Mommy” she whispers with her eyes still closed, “you smell good.” I think about that shower I never got to take during the craziness of yesterday and smile with amusement as I wonder how she could ever possibly think that. Then she squeezes tighter and nuzzles in even more, and with her eyes shut and a slight smile on her sleepy face, she sweetly whispers, “You smell like love.”
I squeeze her just as tightly back and think deeply about what she just said. “You smell like love.” If there was ever anything in the world I could hope to smell like to my children, that would be it. Yet how can I possibly deserve such an honor? You see, this motherhood thing, it’s beautiful but it’s hard. So often, I fall short of my own high expectations of myself. That picture-perfect mom I had envisioned being before having kids – you know, the one with endless patience and energy – she rarely lasts through the day. Let’s be honest, sometimes she doesn’t even last through breakfast. On most days, my strong-willed little girl pushes my patience to its limit. The stubbornness inside her somehow is even greater than my own. She holds on, she persists, she doesn’t back down. I know these traits will be positive in the future. They will take her far, keep her from being walked on, and give her resilience. Right now though, in my mommy world, it’s exhausting and frustrating. I want nothing more than to have an entire day full of fun with her. A day where every interaction is positive and we laugh and make the sweetest memories. Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful moments like that in every single day, but each one seems to get tainted by opposite moments where I have to push back and hold my ground while she digs in and does the same. When that happens, it feels as though the beautiful moments don’t count; it feels like I’ve failed. Bedtime usually is the worst. She fights the very sleep I long for like it’s the world’s greatest villain. Often by the time my head hits the pillow, I want to cry because I worry deeply that all she will remember are the moments when I’ve had to stand firm and correct her, or worse, the moments when I lost my cool and raised my voice. If I had to guess what my daughter thinks I smell like at the end of the day, I’d have to say it would be a mix of ogre and fire breathing dragon.
Yet here she is, curled up next to me whispering sweetly, “Mommy, you smell good. You smell like love.” And suddenly it hits me and I’m overcome with a wave of emotion. No matter how many tough moments there are, how many timeouts she gets, how many times I lose my patience – my love still shines through to her. She can see it, she can feel it, and yes, she can even smell it. It doesn’t take an entire day of rainbows, giggles, and perfection. Those beautiful moments of mommy-child sunshine sprinkled throughout the day don’t get negated when a pop-up thunderstorm or two (or even five) roll in. I hold my daughter closer and whisper, “Thank you my sweet girl.” Thank you for feeling my love even on days when I feel like I’ve failed at this parenting thing. Thank you for reminding me that in the end, love is what sticks. Thank you for teaching me it’s okay when our day isn’t perfect. Thank you, my sweet little girl, for being able to smell my love for you.