Mondays are pretty poopy sometimes, but I’ve gotten through another one with no major disasters and am finally tucking Free into bed. It’s 8pm. We missed our goal of 7:30 because I read to her while she was in the tub, and the story was interesting enough to slow down the soaping up. While she snuggles in under the covers, I download a math app on my iPhone so she can make up her math homework (that she was supposed to do tonight) on tomorrow morning’s commute. She is drifting off to sleep, cosy with her fingers wrapped around her sheepskin and her thumb in her mouth. I am just about to drag my tired body from the bed when I turn to give one last kiss before she slips off to neverland. Her eyes are closed, her breathing steady. She is slipping into a dream.
I lift my hand and gently touch the tip of my index finger to her forehead. There is the slightest shift in her breathing; she is still with me. I run my finger along the length of her hairline; she holds her breath. I place my thumb on the space my finger just left, and I trace the edge of her face softly. She relaxes, letting herself feel the soft pressure of her mama’s love.
It is a ritual my mother practiced on me when I was little, something to settle me when I didn’t want to take a nap. I still remember asking her to do it, leaning in eagerly with eyes closed to concentrate on the contours of my own skin as my mother traced my face. I have used the same technique on Free since she was an infant. It is something we do every once in a while, a remembered thing we share. I know what it feels like to have your mother’s full attention, to know through her touch that you are beautiful to her, that you bring her joy just by being alive.
Now as a mother myself, I know what it is to study your child in this way: to let the fact of her beauty sink in and stop everything else in its perfection. I skim my thumb down the side of Free’s cheek, letting its cool, smooth softness calm me. I smell the honey of her Burt’s Bees shampoo as I tickle the indentation of her chin. Next, I sail down the end of her nose and let my fingers rest lightly on her lips. Even though she is almost asleep, she has pulled her thumb out of her mouth in anticipation, curling her face deeper into the soft fleece of the sheepskin to turn her ear expectantly my way. It is her favorite part of the mini-massage, and I always save it for last. First, I love to linger on her eyes, tracing the brows and lashes with finger-kisses. Then I swirl my thumb and finger along her ear, tugging softly at the lobe before running my hand over her head and its long braid of hair.
She is asleep. Will she remember this ritual in the morning? It is one of those unspoken things, a moment captured when I am content just to let myself absorb and adore her. This is mindfulness, I know, an act of loving and being and seeing and knowing. This is what we are alive for, this giving and taking. It’s not so complicated, yet I have spent the whole day attending to other things. I lean in for that last kiss, planted on the cheek of my sleeping child. I pull my tired body up from the bed. I turn out the light, and I head out to the next thing. In a little over nine short hours, I will return to kiss my girl awake again.