It's amazing, the way your toddler loves you. The adoration is dizzying. I remember the first time Gigi told me she loved me: "I love you too, Mama." It was one of the best moments in my life. And now, she'll throw her arms around me and declare her love out of the blue, when I least expect it, without any prompting whatsoever: "I love you Mama." My heart melts. There's simply nothing better in all of life.
Today I had to go to a meeting. She was in the car when her daddy dropped me off, and I had explained where I was going, so she accepted my departure with no tears or protest. I reached in the back to give her a hug and kiss goodbye, and she squeezed me with all her might and then said, "bye Mama." After my meeting I walked across campus toward the student union, where my husband was waiting for me with Gigi, and suddenly saw the pair of them walking toward me. My heart leaped at the sight of them, my tiny little girl in her hat and my hubby holding her hand and pointing to me. When I got close enough for her to recognize me, she broke into a run and threw both arms around my legs and then held her arms up in the universal small child sign for "pick me up!" Once in the car and on our way, she exclaimed, "I really missed you so much!" It was the first time she'd said that without any sort of prompting. "I was looking for you everywhere!" she reported breathlessly.
I don't think there is any greater gift than your child's love. From the moment your baby is born you are overwhelmed with the love you feel for her, an emotion you thought you understood but suddenly realize you never really knew before that moment. As a baby she can't really reciprocate in any way, but this doesn't diminish the intensity of your mother love. Then suddenly she begins to show you she likes you in various ways: her smiles, her cries that only you can soothe, her protests when you leave the room. She seems to enjoy you, and she very much prefers you. It is beyond flattering, beyond gratifying. But this is nothing compared with hearing her tell you she loves you, especially at this age, when there is no guile, no purpose other than to express her feelings.
It is no accident, I think, that this phase coincides with the onset of the "terrible" twos and threes, as these unabashed declarations of love are often just what a worn-out mama needs to keep going on a tough day. Up until very recently, Gigi was a pretty easy two-year-old. But I didn't let my guard down, as my mother had told me that three was much more difficult in her experience with my brother and me. If this past week is any indication, we could be in for quite a wild ride in the next year or so.