The morning of my daughter’s 15-month appointment, I cried in the kitchen. She still wasn’t saying any words consistently and I was embarrassed to tell the doctor. Was she behind? Was it my fault? Was I not teaching her enough? Was I a bad mom?
One night a week later, I searched Pinterest for “activities for 15-month olds.” As a stay-at-home mom, I sometimes find myself at a lack of things to do with my daughter and thought some fresh ideas might help. Instead I ended up crying at the dining room table the next morning. What kind of mom needs to search for ways to play with her own daughter? Do all 15-month-olds sort colors and shapes? Do all moms use coffee cans, egg cartons and craft pipe cleaners for educational games and learning? Was I the only one who didn’t like nursery rhymes? Was I a bad mom?
The doctor seemed unconcerned with her lack of talking and my sister (and mom of four) assured me that she didn’t sing nursey rhymes, either. No I wasn’t a bad mom, they said. I was a good mom.
But that wasn’t enough. I needed to know something more than if I am a good mom.
I needed to know: Is my daughter happy?
Does she know how much I love her?
Every day I’ll sit with her on my lap and read to her as she brings me book after book, sometimes as many as fifteen in a row. On the changing table, we have nightly tickle parties as she tries to sneak her toes out of her sleep sack, giggling as I overreact and “scold” (tickle) them back inside. She draws my face in with her little hands and wraps her arms around my neck for hugs.
In those moments, I know she is happy. She knows I love her.
But what about those other moments? When I let her cry in her crib because that nap was not long enough. Or when I give her construction paper and crayons, but get out my notebook- or phone!- instead of coloring with her. What about when she clings onto my leg while I try to empty the dishwasher? Or when I turn on Blue’s Clues so she snuggles with me and I can close my eyes for a minute? Does she know I love her then?
Those are the moments that keep me awake at night, wishing I could go in her room and snuggle her for a little longer. In the moment, all I could think was that I needed a break, I needed to do some grown-up things, or maybe even the “shaming” thought that playing with a toddler can get boring. But then I can’t help but wonder if she is okay playing alone or sad because she thinks she’s not as important as housework. It’s mom guilt and it hurts sometimes to watch her play alone because while independent play is important, I don’t want her to be lonely and I don’t want her to be sad.
I hope she knows that I’m doing the best I can. That I may not always sit and play blocks with her, but I love to watch her learn, explore, and grow. I love to hear her giggling and her footfalls as she runs around the kitchen. I love feeling those hugs around my neck at night or around my leg when she wants me to pick her up, but my hands are full of uncooked chicken.
I hope she knows I want her to be happy. I hope she knows how much I always love her.