My mother-in-law once told me when she, as a young girl, asked for herself and her brother, "Mama, are we good?" her mother said, "You're good when you sleep." The first time I heard this story, I admit to being appalled. How could a mother say such a thing to her child? Was the implication that the only time they were good was when they were knocked out cold? It seemed pretty harsh, even for German ancestors not known for their effusive affection.
Over the years, Dirk and I have made a bit of a joke of it when our girls catch an unplanned nap in the backseat of the car or on the couch, with a smile we whisper to one another, "They're good when they sleep". But now, I actually think I get what his grandmother meant and I appreciate that her answer may have been different had she been asked on a different day or even a different time of day. Some days are crammed to the corners with the demands of parenting. Some days the good isn't wildly evident amidst bickering, groans over homework and debates over why Cheetos are not a vegetable. But when the day's work is done and they are nestled in their beds, curls tousled over softly printed pillow cases, that is when we have the full bandwidth to see them...to see that they are good...they are everything good.
Even on the best days of mothering, I am generally quite ready to call it a night as I kiss the little loves to sleep at bedtime. There are times as I'm walking out the door of their room and they ask for yet one more fresh glass of water, it is all I can do not to go bat crazy because I haven't been allowed to clock out at my normal quitting time. The humanity! I
My mind replays the accounts of the day...sometimes it's the best of moments that come to mind – the times when we loved one another well, laughed heartily, listened intently to one another. Other times I recount missed opportunities or a tone I wish I hadn't taken and I say a prayer of thanks that a new day is coming, a second chance to do better. And soon I find myself climbing to the top of the stairs to have one more look at them. They always look especially tiny in their beds, knees pulled to their tummies, faces softened with nary a crease to be found. It is in this place, where nothing is required of me, that I can see it. All of their goodness rises like cream and I see who they really are...vulnerable, beautiful, tiny, impressionable, treasured little beings entrusted to us for a whisper of time. And I see how good they always are, imperfect, but always good.