Late last Friday night, my girls were coming home from visiting Dallin's parents in Dallas. They'd been gone for eleven days (the original plan was eight, but the weather in Dallas had other plans).
Their flight was scheduled to land at 1:29 AM, and I had to go pick them up. I decided to just stay up rather than go to bed and wake up. (I mean, really, who likes waking up?) Dallin was away on a scout campout, so I had to get Parker out of bed and loaded into the car. I thought he'd sleep the whole way, but he was actually wide awake and jabbering the whole time. I didn't mind. I was excited.
The girls had been a little disappointed when their original flight home was cancelled. They'd done pretty well on the trip, and they were definitely well cared for, but they are three and five...they were a little homesick. And while I had definitely enjoyed a bit of a mommy break (we even left Parker with my mom for a few days and got a little babymoon to San Diego out of it), I was ready to see my girls.
I pulled up to the airport around 1:30 AM. Being, you know, the middle of the night, I ignored the "No parking at any time" signs and just parked by the curb to wait. After ten or fifteen minutes of knee-bouncing anticipation, I saw my mother-in-law walk out of the airport, carrying a sleeping Charly and pushing an awake Maddy in an umbrella stroller.
I wasn't going to cry. Honest. Even when I saw them, I didn't feel like crying. I was just happy they'd made it and excited to see them.
But then, Maddy saw me.
I know she was tired, and my sweet girl gets super emotional when she's tired...but the emotions on her face when she saw me....I just don't want to forget them.
Her eyes got wide and she looked like she was trying so hard to be excited. She held her arms out towards me. She got the beginnings of a big, open-mouthed smile on her face, but I could tell a sob was right on the edge of it. And then, right before I pulled her into a long awaited hug, she mouthed the word "Mama!" and broke down.
And so, of course, I did too.
She gave me a real, honest to goodness, I-could-hold-on-to-you-forever kind of hug that I'm not sure I've ever gotten from her before. My heart was beating out of my chest, and streaming down my face, and wrapped up in my arms, all at once.
The truth is, I think a lot about how much I love my kids. I worry about them, pray for them, dress and feed them, hurt with them, and try to teach them right from wrong. I want them to be happy and successful and fulfilled and good, because of how much I love them. And as long as I remember to stop and think in the midst of the chaos that is everyday life, or if I happen to have some precious, quiet moment with one of them at some point in the day, it's easy to remember why I put myself through the struggle that is motherhood. It's because I love these little people of mine. I love them like crazy.
But seeing Maddy see me at the airport reminded me of something: they love me like crazy, too. They love me and want me and need me. I'm their mama, and I'm special to them in a way that no one else is.
To be loved in this way is empowering. It really is. It makes me care a little less about what other people think of me. It makes me not only want to be a great mom, it makes me feel like I could really do it. I could be that. In my kids' eyes, I am that.
They don't see my failures and shortcomings -- the stupid things I say, the talents I don't have, the patience I lose way too often. They see the tickle fights and the songs before bed and the times we play restaurant at lunch. They ask me questions because they think I'm smart. They play with my makeup and clothes because they think I'm pretty. They cry for me when they're hurt because I make them feel better. Me. Can you believe it? Can you believe how lucky I am?
At some point during my hug with Maddy at the airport, I opened my eyes and actually made eye contact with a stranger walking by. He smiled a bit as he observed our special moment, and I tried as hard as I could to give him a look back that said, "I don't know you, but I hope you have this."
And to you, reading this. I hope you have it, too. Maybe not from a child, maybe not yet. But from somewhere, I hope you feel loved like this. And I hope you cherish it.
And I hope that, from now on, I'll remember to cherish it a little more.