Love has many forms and many definitions. When I think about moments in my life when I have felt truly loved, I remember times when another person (or dog!) was truly present with me. Loving another person unconditionally means really listening to them and seeing them as they are. It is offering them whatever it is they need; oftentimes that is just having someone hear and see them.
To me, true presence is true love.
Here is what I want for my daughter.
At the core of her being, I hope Emily knows that I see her for who she is, and that I love her fully and completely. I hope that she feels I am truly seeing her and listening to her throughout the day, and in those moments when she really needs me.
The other day a loud noise startled her. I watched her eyes open wide and then her face changed and she began to cry. I resisted my urge to try to immediately distract her (which would have been for my own comfort), and instead picked her up, held her tight and said, “That was a very loud noise. Loud noises can be so scary!” She calmed down in my arms after crying for a bit.
In that moment I wanted her to know that crying when she’s feeling scared is perfectly okay. As adults we often suppress or repress our emotions because they aren’t “acceptable”. Emily is only three months old and hasn’t learned that anything she is feeling can be seen as “wrong”. I want her to know that mommy is here to just hold her and be present with her whenever she needs me, no matter what she is feeling. I want her to be able to express every part of herself safely to me.
Filling my cup.
I realize that my physical presence doesn’t always mean that I’m truly present. I think of my wellbeing as a cup. If my cup is full, then I have lots to give and lots of room to be present. If my cup is empty like when I’m tired, overwhelmed or just run down, I don’t have anything left to give and can’t really be present.
So, when my cup is empty I try to fill it. Sometimes it simply means taking a few breaths or listening to a song I love. Sometimes it means taking a nice long bath. And other times it means taking a few hours to myself to recharge and reboot so my cup is full again. Once I’ve taken this time, I find I am happier, more present in my own life, and I can therefore be more present with my daughter and husband.
I’m not great yet at noticing when my cup is close to empty, and find it hard to ask for help when I need it. I am aware of that though, and working on it day by day for myself and for Emily.
Obviously, I’m not always present. I have my struggles and make a lot of mistakes. Every day I stumble and I learn, I practice and I fail.
Sometimes I’m exhausted and need mindless entertainment so I’ll read a book to Emily while simultaneously watching from the corner of my eye an episode of Real Housewives of NYC or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. (Yes, I’m embarrassed I watch these shows, but I’m being honest here!)
Sometimes the day could drag on when it’s raining out or I don’t have any adult interaction, so I spend a lot of time online reading useless celebrity gossip. Not exactly the epitome of being in the moment!
Sometimes I have no more patience left (especially at bed time!) so daddy has to take over while I go breathe on my own for while. Thank God for teamwork!
More times then I care to admit, I am looking at my phone and checking social media for no good reason while hanging out with Emily.
All of this is okay though, because I am doing my best and I spend a lot of precious and present time with my baby. I can’t be perfect.
There’s no “perfect” mom anyway.
I was talking to a wise friend about how I felt like I was having trouble being totally present for Emily because I wasn’t feeling good. She reminded me that no one is perfect, and that Emily wouldn’t fare well with a “perfect” mom anyway. She said, “Imagine the unrealistic expectations she would carry for herself!” She told me that the most important lesson for Emily is seeing that sometimes other people may disappoint us, but we can survive and still trust in our relationship if it has a solid foundation.
I have no doubt that Emily and I have a solid foundation that we will continue to build upon. My love for her feels like an ever-expanding force that has changed me forever.
I may not always be fully present in every single moment, but I will drop everything for Emily whenever she needs me, no matter how old she is, no matter how she is feeling, and I will truly be there. This I know for sure.