There may be nothing more painful for a parent than watching his or her child suffer – whether from a tummy ache, a broken heart, or a life-threatening medical condition – and not being able to do anything about it. I was reminded of that fact this morning when I woke up to the sound of hysterical screaming at 3am. I raced down the hall to find my daughter sitting up in her perspiration-soaked bed, coughing (a horrible, croup-y, phlegm-filled hacking) so hard that she nearly made herself throw up, sobbing hysterically, and shaking. I held her in my arms and rocked her to calm her down while I offered her whatever I could think of to help. She didn’t want a drink of water, she adamantly refused to take any medicine, she didn't want a cool washcloth, she didn’t want music on, she didn’t want to stay in her bed, she didn’t want to sleep in the guest room. Finally I asked her if there was anything she wanted. Through her tears, she clung tightly to my neck and croaked out, “With you, Mama.”
I was offering her the world, but all she wanted to make herself feel better was to be with me.
So often as parents, we want to offer our kids everything we can think of. We want to give them the best toys, the most delicious and healthiest foods, the most comfortable homes, the coolest wardrobes, the best education, the nicest friends, the most fun classes and clubs and activities. And we’re frustrated with ourselves when we feel like we’re falling short of that goal. But all too often, we forget that what our children want most of all is just to be with us. To play with us, to talk to us, to spend time with us, to get to know us, to love us, and to be loved by us. Our mere presence is comforting, reassuring, educational, inspiring pride and ambition. Being THERE is much more important than being anything else.
So, at 3am, I trudged downstairs and stretched out on the couch with a hot little human bundle clinging to me like a limpet, her face nuzzled into my shoulder and her soft hair trailed across my face. I stroked her warm back and felt her body relax and her choked coughing settle into a gentle, sleeping gurgle. She had found the place where she knew she would be cared for, protected, and kept safe, the place where she was happy and loved. And so had I.