The other day someone asked me if I liked being a mom.
I was holding onto Tegan, whose spindly legs were wrapped around my waist. Her head was resting on my dampening shoulder, pigtails were dusting my cheek. She occasionally readjusted, looked up at me with her enormous eyes.
We sat on a couch as minutes ticked past her bedtime. As I thought about how I should have already changed her into PJs, bathed her and brushed her teeth, should have given her more vegetables today.
I knew she'd fall asleep on the car ride home, softly cling to me as I'd lay her down in her crib with my feet suspended, torso balancing on the rail. I'd sing to her and stroke her hair, say a prayer, admire her from the doorway.
"I love being a mom," I said. "It's the most natural feeling in the world."
It was one of those moments where I wished words were tangible, able to be yanked back or clapped away like eraser dust.
It wasn't that it wasn't true; it just felt so TV special, so cloying and unexceptional.
There was a nod and smile in response, Tegan's soft breathing, lashes fluttering against my neck.
I searched for better words. Words more eloquent, able to give voice to my heart so achingly full. But I said nothing, just sat with my quiet smile.
Sometimes I wish we could see the fullness of each other's hearts, what we're storing, what we value. If my friend had seen what lay in mine, he wouldn't have asked. But he would know:
My love for my daughter is kissing her sweaty feet. It is wiping snot with my bare hands, letting her scream in my ear as I rock her and wipe away her tears. It is cutting her food into tiny pieces, mixing yucky medicine into peanut butter or jam, singing silly songs and doing dances to make her laugh.
It is changing her diaper in the middle of every night. It is dropping everything for her, giving everything for her. It is wrapping hair into pigtails before sunrise, being elbow-deep in bath water at sunset. It is admiring her every gesture, telling her she is beautiful and smart and so very loved.
It is holding her hand throughout car rides, pretending I'm a horsey, chasing her to put lotion on her face, a diaper on her bottom. It is softening at the sound of her voice, holding onto her priceless words. It is appreciating everything she is, accepting who she is, loving everything she is.
It is teaching her "nice hands"; that we do not hit, only love. It is teaching her "walking feet" and "please" and "thank you," to express her feelings, to care for others. It is teaching her to be kind, to share, to ask questions, to try again. To know that nobody is perfect (including me), that we forgive and still love. It is sharing beauty, expressing joy in the small things. It is encouraging, imagining, being silly, being free.
It is thanking God for every single day, appreciating every moment. When she hits. When she melts down. Misbehaves. Acts defiant. Yells at me. When she doesn't want to eat my third attempt at dinner. When I haven't slept for four nights. When the day is filled with "No, Mommy!" and hot tears.
There is no "liking" being a mom. There is only loving. Unconditionally, fully, selflessly.
Do I like being a mom? With abandon.