It’s been a rough couple of weeks at our house. First, it was a round of colds for everyone. The snotty noses and coughs still haven’t ended. Then, it was the stomach virus. I’ll spare you the details, but I’ll just say that it wasn’t pretty. And anyone with kids knows that sleepless nights come with the territory when they’re sick.
One of the defining and (for better or worse) most memorable moments of motherhood is taking care of your children when they’re ill. We don’t have a choice. They get sick, and it’s our job to be there. We don’t enjoy cleaning up vomit or poop any more than anyone else, but we have to. Who else would do it if we didn’t?
I had a few moments over these past weeks, though, where I felt the weight of my importance in the lives of my children. I had a few moments where I knew that what I was doing was more than cleaning up a mess or washing endless loads of laundry. I had a few moments where I realized there is no other place I’d rather be.
One of those moments occurred in the middle of the night. I heard Avery calling me from her room at about 2 a.m. She does this frequently with petty requests: Can you fix my blanket? Will you bring me some water? Is it time to get up yet?
I yelled to her to go back to sleep. She kept calling me.
“Mom, I did something. Mom, I did something,” she cried.
I marched into her room ready to firmly explain that it isn’t time to get up yet, and that she is going to lose her privileges for the day if she keeps yelling.
And then I saw her. She was crouched down on the floor, looking up at me with big doe eyes. She was afraid.
“Mommm,” she wimpered. “Mommma.”
She had gotten sick in her bed, but she had never experienced this before. She didn’t know what was happening to her, and she was scared.
That’s the moment when I knew how important I was to her. I was the only one that could provide the comfort that she needed in that moment. I was the only one who could reassure her that everything was going to be okay. In that moment when nothing can make it better, I could make it better just by being there.
I scooped up her tiny body and took her to the bathroom. I cleaned her up and explained what was happening to her. Cleaning up throw-up is probably one of the lowliest tasks in this world, but in that moment it felt monumental. Because I knew that what I did mattered. It made all the difference to her. The fear was gone, and she felt relief knowing that I was there to care for her.
I realized then that perhaps I was lucky. You don’t usually think that scrubbing vomit out of tile grout is lucky, but I felt lucky that it was me. I can’t change the whole world or even my whole city or anything really, for that matter. But, for two little people in this world, I am everything. I am their Mom.
A time will come when I won’t be their everything anymore. They won’t need me to rub their heads as they drift off to sleep, to comfort them when they’re hurt or put their shoes on the right feet for the eightieth time. Their world will be bigger than just me and their Dad. But, for now, I’m going to appreciate how important I am to my children, even if it means cleaning up throw-up once in a while.