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Important Parenting Lessons, Courtesy of a Very Stuffy Nose

My three-year-old daughter has a head cold. And if you have ever parented a three year old, you know this is serious business. When their little noses are too stopped up to breathe, they’re simply too young to understand the situation. And they just look at you with puffy eyes that say, “Why, WHY has my nose completely stopped working?” They are so distressed that they begin to cry, which of course makes the stuffy nose worse. It is at this point you realize you are in for a very long night.

Corrie had a night like that last night. She was so frustrated by the situation that only one thing – and one thing alone – would soothe her. She wanted me to sleep with her, but her parameters were very specific. We had to sleep on the same pillow (the Belle one), nose-to-nose, forehead-to-forehead, with her arm thrown around my neck, and my arm wrapped around her waist. And if I shifted from this precarious position, she would awake from her fragile, stuffy sleep and begin to cry desperately, “Momma! Where are you going?”

(The next morning, I observed to my husband that “when she doesn’t feel good she gets really picky and kind of hard to deal with.” And he looked at me pointedly and said, “Really? I can’t imagine where she could have possibly picked up that genetic trait.” Cheeky guy.)

Anyway, back to our night.

I lay there with her, not sleeping much at all. Her feverish little body touched mine, and it made things a bit toasty. Her breathing was loud and gravelly, as she struggled to breathe well. I lay there, nose-to-nose with her, inhaling the air she was exhaling and knowing that in 24 hours this cold was going to be lodged in my head, too. I thought of the fun getaway I have planned with her daddy next weekend, and I grumbled in my head that now I might be coughing and sniffling my way through it. She sneezed on me a couple of times, from a distance of 1.7 inches.

The humidifier roared on her other side, making my hair feel damp.

There were a lot of reasons to feel miserable.

Just as I began to wish there was another solution to this whole deal, I heard her cough, and she roused, only slightly, from her troubled sleep. Her little arm tightened around my neck. And her hoarse voice whispered, "Thank you, Momma, for being here.”

And then she drifted back to her sleep.

I was overcome, in that moment, by a lesson I’ve learned and re-learned a hundred times in the last eleven years. This is a gift, right here and right now, no matter what silly sacrifices might be required of me. I may not be sleeping much, but I had another eight hours to hold her, to look at her, to memorize every inch of her three-year-old face (which will only be three for another week). And, in one of the more miraculous aspects of motherhood, I knew that just by being there, I was making it better. I know the day is coming, so desperately soon, when I can’t solve her problems for her. But last night, as I held her and patted her and let her rub that snotty little face against mine, I was providing all the comfort she could possibly need.

I was enough for her. It’s a miracle. And a gift.

I can sleep when she’s grown.


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