I thought they were all asleep.

There were kitchen chores to do.  I turned on some music, lit a candle, rolled up my sleeves and got down to work.

Sometimes I like baking in the quiet of the night in my eternally gritty yet somehow cozy little kitchen.  Because I was alone, I sang out loud.  Bits of a song here, all of the lyrics for the next song.  Off key, off rhythm, but with joy and abandon.

I walk across the kitchen to put something away and I see her little feet first, bare and standing by the kitchen door.

“I love when you sing, Mommy,” she smiled at me, sleepy-eyed and pajama-clad.  “It lets me know you’re happy.”

I grin, hug her little self and walk with her back to bed.

That’s sort of all our kids want – isn’t it?

To think that mommy is happy.

A counselor told me recently, “You need to be okay.  Like – really okay.  Moms need to be okay.  To a kid, the world revolves around you.”

It wasn’t intended as guilt-heavy advice.  She wasn’t applying pressure that would encourage me to fake it or pretend.

It was part of a longer conversation about healing and healthy care and clarity of mind.  About actually being okay.

It really is what our kids want.  What they need.  For you to laugh and for you to not find your affirmation in their praise.  To not rise or sink on their whims and childish feelings.  To be steady.  To be okay.  To be happy.

To sing when you think you’re all alone in the kitchen at night.  To take the time to do things that you like to do too.

They don’t need to carry the burden of being your best friend or your social equal or your shoulder to cry on.

They’re great – right?  These human beings we bore or adopted or embraced.  But they’re just kids.  They can’t (and shouldn’t be asked to) carry the weight of us as moms and dads and people with issues.

You be the mom (or the dad) and let them be the kid.  You be okay – and they’ll probably be okay too.