Every muscle in my body is aching and the clock is moving painfully slow. My daughter is ripping apart the playroom despite my pleas to calm down.
“Mommy, I can’t find my gold shoes!” she screams at me, with tears running down her small face. Five minutes before, I had put away the toys in preparation for bedtime, and now they are strewn all over the carpet.
The shoes in question don’t even fit my daughter anymore, but she has been obsessed with them since they were part of her flower girl outfit a few months ago. They used to be a shiny gold, but now they are tattered and brown. Despite that, she wants to wear them daily and tantrums ensue whenever the shoes cannot be located immediately.
I reluctantly pull myself off the sofa, feeling the weight of the day in my body. I locate the gold shoes under her Elsa dress. My daughter’s sobbing slows down and I sink back into my seat. I glance at the clock again, willing time to go faster.
There is a different kind of exhaustion that comes with the demands of mothering small children. My daughter wants all of me all of the time. Every hour of the day, she insists on more from me – like a new meal because she doesn’t like the one I prepared. And there are the physical demands as well, the way that she is always climbing on top of me and insisting that I carry her. She pulls at my clothing and my hair, wanting more of me.
This neediness is to be expected of a toddler: she is two and I am the main caretaker in her life. She is spoiled because I give her all of myself, on a daily basis. When she calls out to me, every part of my body responds to her voice and I find myself meeting all of her demands without hesitation. This responsiveness is innate in me; it lives my heart and drives my days.
But with this constant giving comes a depletion of my own reserves. At the end of the day, I often have nothing left to give.
The drama of the missing gold shoes is just another one of those nights. After I hand her the tattered shoes, she asks me to find a specific toy, and then demands more food even though it is almost bedtime.
I suggest we go upstairs and read. She reluctantly agrees but insists that I carry her and all six of her stuffed animals. When we make it upstairs, we collapse on my bed. I tell her to go into her room to find a few books.
Instead, she leans her little head on my shoulders.
“Do snuggles and kisses?” she asks. I pull her warm body closer to mine, and we lay there together, talking about the day. She reaches out her little pink mouth and softly kisses my face.
“Let me teach you about a different kind of kiss,” I say.
I rub my nose against hers and explain that this is called an Eskimo kiss. She giggles every time our faces touch and I can’t help but do the same.
I instruct her to turn her face to the side and I flutter my eyelashes against her cheek.
“That’s a butterfly kiss,” I whisper to her softly.
She laughs out loud and tells me that it tickles.
“More?” she asks with a smile, bringing her face close to mine.
We lay like that for almost an hour, snuggling and kissing and laughing and giggling. And then, I realize that despite my exhaustion, I simply don’t want the day to end. I want to stay like that with her all night. It feels like the tantrum over the gold shoes was a different day.
I give her Eskimo and butterfly kisses until her eyelids are droopy and she asks to go to bed. As I reluctantly put her in her crib, all I can think about is that I only have to wait twelve hours to kiss her again.
This is how it goes most days: my daughter drains every ounce of me with her demands, and then fills me back up with complete joy and bliss.
Even my worst days with her are still the best days of my life.