Jojo, 6, off-handedly: “Mama, why do you love me?” A pause, while we both take this in, and she realizes this is maybe a deeper question than she intended. “I mean. I know that you love me because you made me. And you’re my Mama.”
Me: “Well, yes. I did make you. And I am your Mama. But….” I wonder how this is going to go, but then I’m talking, and the words come so fast I’m stumbling over myself to get them out. “I love the way you’re so sweet. I love the way your brain works.” (She recently mistook the phrase “make-up class” to mean a class in which she could make up all the rules. Intellectually, I approve. Realistically, I need to manage her expectations.) "I love how you ask questions constantly. I love how you snuggle into me when you’re tired.”
Jojo, chuckling: “Yeah."
Me, barreling on: “I love your laugh. I love how you hold the door for everyone, all the time.” (Stubbornly. People say “You go ahead,” and she juts her chin out and stands firmly, saying, “No, you go.”)
Me: "I love your love for every animal. I love how you catch crickets when they get loose in our house.” (We have two cricket-eating pets, who sometimes let their dinner sneak out. When any of us spots a cricket we yell to the one person who is always willing to fix it: “JO!!!")
Me: “I love how brave you are. I love how strong you are. I love the callouses on your hands.” (She has seven. On each hand. I didn’t even know that was possible. I was a rough-and-tumble kid, but I only had four per.)
Me: “I love how your hair smells after an afternoon in the sunshine.” I stop to take a breath, floored.
Jojo, staring at her splayed counting fingers, looking incredulous: “That’s ten things. Plus four.”
Me: “And I love the way you sling your arm around my neck when we hug.”
Jojo, thrilled to pieces: “That’s fifteen things!”
Me: “Wow. How lucky are we!?”
I lean into her, squeezing her close, awash with tenderness. She allows it for a moment and then, plucky and confident, she shrugs me off cheerfully and runs to join her friends in line, because class is about to start.
How lucky are we, indeed.