Love can be really powerful when it surprises you.
Until my younger daughter, Ruah turned two and a half years old, I stayed home with our children. My husband was a full-time United Methodist pastor, who had just received a new appointment with three churches. When my husband and our older daughter, Ana, were off in the morning, Ruah and I stayed home together until her sister came back from her preschool in the afternoon.
Being the main care provider for a baby and a preschooler, without any help from grandparents is challenging. I was exhausted by their bedtime. After one long day, when I just needed some time by myself without a 4- and 2-year-old clinging to me, I did not have much patience left when I put them to bed. After their bath time, we would always talk about the day and turn on the instrumental lullabies, and just before I hit the light, I would ask them if they needed to go to the potty for the last time. Of course, they would say “No.” As soon as I was out of the room, Ana and Ruah would start calling, “Mommy, I need to go potty,” “I need water,” “I am hot, I want to take off my pajamas,” “I want to change my pajamas,” or “Say a longer prayer for me, Mommy.” After all their needs were satisfied and they decided to go for a second round, I did not have any patience left.
It was the second time that Ruah wanted to go potty after the light was out and I was getting irritated. She probably just wanted to get out of the room because she had just gone to the bathroom 5 minutes ago! I was at my wit’s end so I yelled: “Quickly! Go potty and come back!” She was still wearing a diaper, so I took it off in a careless manner, and Ruah ran to the restroom whimpering. I was standing in the doorway holding a diaper, and expressing my anger as best I could. I made sure that my voice, tone, facial expression and crossed arms clearly showed that I was angry but, inside I was also fighting my motherly guilt, not being able to provide my baby with tender care.
Ana, who was quietly tucked in her bed and saw everything called me softly, “Mommy?”
I answered her rather abruptly, “What?”
Then she said the most unexpected words, “Mommy, you are a good mom.”
My heart sank, and I could not say anything. I felt like I had been punched in the face.
She said, one more time, “Mommy, you are a good mom.”
And with that my irritation and frustration just melted away. How could she say that after witnessing my act toward her little sister, which definitely was not the best behavior as a good mom?
After a short silence, I finally found the word to ask: “Why?”
She answered cheerfully, “Because you love me.”
I was overwhelmed by her grateful love poured out to me unconditionally. All of my anger and annoyance were gone. I responded to Ana, “Ana, you are a good baby.”
Ana laughed sweetly, “I am not a baby, I am a big girl!”
“Yes, you are a big girl.” My heart instantly overflowed with her love and kindness when that was what I had least expected.
When Ruah came back, I was able to greet her with a little smile and apologize to her for using my “mean voice.” I gave them one last hug and kiss and closed the door for the night.
I still remember that night, when I witnessed how powerful love can be when it appears at the least expected place and what it feels like when you are punched in the face by love. It is a memory that I will always cherish.
Narae Kim is associate pastor at Severna Park United Methodist Church. She can be reached at [email protected]
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