It means intuitively knowing that she loves me, even though she can only say a garbled “biwoovew” when I prompt her.
It means deciphering her slurred mispronunciations which requires a lot of context clues.
It means knowing the difference between defiance tantrums and cries for help.
It means lying awake deciding whether or not to turn the heater in her room on.
It means staying up till 12:30 at night because she wouldn’t go to sleep on time, then you had to do laundry, and then you just wanted a little “me-time” but it cost you.
It means receiving her spontaneous hugs gratefully and gulping in those few extra seconds when she’s feeling particularly generous.
It means kissing boo-boos on her toes even when her feet are disgusting–but with what? You just swept!
It means lying awake deciding whether or not to turn the heater in her room off.
It means dreaming of her crying and slowly realizing it’s not a dream anymore.
It means going for walks to pick ‘flowers’ (weeds) from the neighbor’s yard.
It means feeling like a string is being pulled taunt as you walk to your car in the daycare parking lot with her abandoned screams echoing in your ears.
It means getting that second wind when you pick her up and she runs into your arms like she’s been a castaway the last 8 hours and you’re the shore.
It means putting the sink back in the toy kitchen for the millionth time.
It means bribing her with Hershey Kisses so you can comb her hair into a ponytail.
It means biting the tip off those Kisses so she doesn’t stab the roof of her mouth, even though your husband says you’re paranoid.
It means letting her watch Elmo on your phone in the car because her cry triggers some sort of involuntary reaction that urges you to make it stop at all costs–an evolutionary instinct?
It means crying over spilled (breast)milk.
It means cheering on her first steps like it’s overtime at the Super Bowl.
Sometimes, it even means not wanting more kids. And that’s okay.
But it always means hard love. And it means everything to me.