We were driving to a quaint Texan town down South. I was in the back with the girls, mom and auntie Halie. We were talking about the challenge of bedtime, that all parents struggle with. The hostage-like situation. The delay. And the obvious difference between how long it takes a dad vs. a mom to leave the room. In our family, our kids always have something more to ask, to say, to sooth, if mom puts them to bed. If dad does it, he is in-and-out. Efficient. Detached from drama, on most days. They don’t engage with the testing of limits, or the delay tactics. Dads put a stop to it faster than a mom can read through the situation to remove herself before it goes too far and it’s too late.
We were laughing at the similarities of bedtime, and I have no secrets about how I feel at times. Conrad even says to our daughters plainly: “I’ll put you to bed. You’ve drained all the energy out of mommy tonight. She needs a little time to herself before her bedtime.”
Alas, in the car, out of the blue, Jackie says: “it doesn’t sound like you like having kids”. Silence.
Halie jumps in to explain that all moms feel a little exhausted with the routine or the bed time delay, but we love our kids and we love being moms. She was kind enough to say she feels like me.
Jackie’s words though. As always, caused me to do some soul searching. Measuring my words better, spending time in introspection. How do I really feel and what I let be seen.
Next morning over coffee I was sharing with Conrad about this. Without skipping a beat he thought of the perfect comeback. “It sounds like you don’t like having parents”. He was glad he wasn’t there to say this, just so he wouldn’t offend mom, or hurt Jackie’s feelings, but isn’t that the other side of the truth. We both look into the same mirror from opposite sides. My words or mood can give an skewed impression of how I truly feel or my committed love to my kids. But doesn’t their testing, pushing, disobedience, ingratitude paint the same picture from the opposite side?
This conversation with my eldest was perfectly complemented by the comment of my youngest, in that same drive: “You know, I didn’t feel loved on this trip”. These comments knock the wind out of me. I regroup fast and dig deeper. Did I miss something? “Why do you think you feel this way?” As we listen, as she finds her words in English, at age 4. I realize something important. Our Love languages are different. Ivy and I share acts of service, but she also thrives on physical touch. As she was in her car seat for 3 hours, physical contact was limited to a slight brush of her face, kissing her hand. And on the way back I didn’t sit next to her. I sat all the way on the back.
We talk to our daughters about our love for them, no matter what. Their smiles bloom on their faces, as we affirm our commitment without any flourishes, but we express our clear, down to earth, love. We apologize for the disconnection or hurt they may have felt and will most likely feel in the future, because life is busy and priorities shifts. But our love for them never changes, no matter what.