It was just before midnight on College Football Saturday. My husband had stayed up late to cheer his team to their first W of the season. I had gone to bed feeling relaxed and thankful for a long weekend. Cillian had run a muck all day, and we thought he would sleep well for us. He did not. He coughed all night, and woke up often looking for some comfort.
Tired and frustrated as I was to be woken up at midnight, I volunteered to go deal with our sick Little. I took him out of his crib and laid him down to snuggle with me on the twin sized bed in his room, making sure to keep him propped up with some pillows in an attempt to ease his cough.
Just to be clear, I have not attempted to sleep with C since he was brand-new. Even then, it did not go well. This was no different.
He sucked his thumb louder than I thought humanly possible. He rolled more times that a crocodile escaping a captor. His head flopped about. His limbs twitched and flailed. He jujitsu kicked me in the face. I had no idea how much room a not-quite-three-foot toddler could occupy!
After what felt like hours of growing frustrations, longing for oblivion, and wishing this tiny monster would just lay still and go the F to sleep… I opened my bleary eyes and looked at him.
I suddenly realized, I was not mad anymore.
‘Mad at your toddler for waking up sick in the middle of the night?’ you might scoff. ‘How could you!’
Ok, clearly you are not a parent. We all know that irrational anger that creeps in when our toddlers, or even our infants, wake up crying for the third time in as many hours. Seriously, 3am poops? Can’t you poop at 9am after mama has her coffee like everyone else? Can’t you just love sleep?!?
But every parent also knows that all animosity evaporates as soon as those oversized eyes close, and the first warm, sweet breath escapes those sleep-puffed cheeks. It is in that moment that we know, no matter how horrendous our toddler has been, even if he is the worst monstrosity to ever be unleashed upon the earth, Godzilla be damned, we would let that little creature mouth-breath on us for eternity.
So laying there in a seemingly pint-sized bed next to what felt like an abnormally large toddler, I looked at my sleeping son. His long dark lashes were laying still on his flushed cheeks. His tiny hands were cupped and wrapped protectively under his chin. His pajama shirt was a scrunched mess under his armpits, exposing his round belly. His chubby feet were pressed against my legs. He was so serene, in between coughing fits. He looked innocent and not at all terrorizing.
I felt this indescribable feeling wash over me and through me. A feeling that made me want to do anything for this tiny person. A feeling that made me willing, dare I say happy, to be sharing a bed and a sleepless night with him.
I was definitely not mad anymore.
I guess that is what true unconditional love feels like.