Once in a while in parenting, you have moments that make you especially prone to reflection. They aren’t in any way predictable — much like children themselves — which makes them all the more poignant when they arise.
Last night I experienced one of these moments.
We were in the middle of our usual bedtime routine, getting the kids undressed and into the bath, with just a tinge of added frustration thrown into the mix. This night was at the tail end of what had been an especially long week with our 3 year old; a relentless cold had made him particularly irritable all week, and his already-short toddler fuse was easily blown by just about anything under the sun (including, for example, my tyrannical insistence that he wear pants outside. In winter.)
But still, we soldiered on. In the bathtub I carefully scrubbed the 1 year old with his wash cloth as I tried to lighten our sullen moods with talk about the fun parts of our day. The boys and I had played in a mommy-and-me class, stomped in whatever snow still remained on the ground from last week’s blizzard, and made pizza together for dinner. Sure, there were rough parts throughout some (okay, most) of those activities, but talking about the day made it seem easier somehow — even better.
My husband was poised to rinse shampoo out of the 3 year old’s hair when he suddenly turned, hugging his dad’s outstretched arm in an awkward embrace. “Mommy is my best friend,” he declared matter-of-factly.
The tears stung behind my eyes before I even realized they were coming. It’s not as if he’d never said that before; in fact, he’s said it a lot. But for some reason, in that moment, the words took on the added weight of our difficult week. I hadn’t been exactly chipper in response to his outbursts. Often I was as much disappointed in my reactions to his behavior as I was exasperated by things he’d done.
But he didn’t hold a grudge. He still called me his best friend, simply and surely, with the sweet sincerity of a loving child. I was humbled by his fast forgiveness — and resolved, even more so, to act in kind.
With tears still pricking at my lids, I leaned over the tub to kiss his wet and soapy head.
“I love you so much,” was all I could manage.
It was the truth.