“Mommy, I’m safe,” she said, snuggling into my chest as we laid in bed, in that sweet interim between saying bedtime prayers and finally closing her eyes to sleep.
Where did that come from? I wonder, while reassuring her that yes, she was most certainly safe.
My daughter is two years old and to my knowledge, besides an unfortunate incident with a stuffed monkey that scared the heck out of her, she’s never felt unsafe. I’m sure the concept came from TV, from some episode of Daniel Tiger that I didn’t notice because I was mentally tuning it out. But still, lying there with her in the dark, holding her close as she repeated several times that she was safe and nestling closer and closer to my heart, I thought about how much I needed to hear her unprecedented observations.
You see, I’ve been mentally languishing lately over the state of my house. I blame it on following too many interior design blogs, and spending too much time on Pinterest. According to the internet world, my house full of mismatched hand-me-down furniture is miles apart from the pristine West Elm tableaus and expertly styled bookshelves I dream of at night. The brightly colored toys strewn across the floor just don’t match up to the muted tone, sustainably sourced wooden train sets and handmade vintage dollhouses that live in the playrooms I busily pin, as if saving them to my Dream Home board will magically mold them into existence. Even amongst my peers, who have living rooms large enough to host big parties and kitchens that are not covered in hideous yellow linoleum, I feel less than. Like I’m desperately trying to catch up to some standard of living and failing every day.
But the one thing I need to remember is that my kids don’t see it that way.
I think back to my own childhood, growing up in a tiny cape cod that I still drive by with a deep sense of yearning. There was only one bathroom, and until a rather disgusting plumbing overflow that forced its replacement, the floor was covered in rough blue carpeting. I distinctly remember lying on that floor every morning, talking with my mom while I waited my turn for the shower (one bathroom and five people necessitated a strict schedule for daily personal hygiene routines). As the steam built up in the tiny room, I never once thought about how the tub was old and mildewed and the carpet was outdated and the plumbing fixtures needed to be replaced. Maybe that’s because I always felt safe, too.
I wonder if my mom fretted over the ugly brown carpet that blanketed the entire first floor (ugly carpets were a theme of that house). I wonder if she felt self-conscious over the chipped baseboards, or the beat up furniture, or the overflowing playroom that would make Marie Kondo flee in horror. I doubt it—my mom isn’t that type of person. But I am. I’m very hung up on appearances, though I’m trying so hard not to be.
My daughter’s declaration of safety brought me back to reality, and to the frivolity of obsessing over leather couches and tufted ottomans. We don’t have a fancy house, but we have a house. Our children have beds to sleep in and food to eat. They have toys and books and parents who love them fiercely. All of these wonderful, magical things I take for granted—heat in the winter, milk in the fridge, a yard to play in—my daughter notices and appreciates these small yet important details. The only person who cares about crown molding is me. And I need to knock it off.
As she drifted off to sleep, I held her close and breathed in the sweet scent of her hair. I thanked God for the blessing of my children, for the privilege of being their mother and for the frank honesty of my sweet baby’s words. We didn’t have the big fancy house, but we did have shelter. We had refuge from hunger, fear, desperation, and wanting. In our little suburban oasis, we were protected from war and all the terrible things going on in the world today.
We were there in the night, cuddled close, and we were safe.