Last week I told my therapist about a realization that I had recently. My daughter, Leona, is 2 years old. She is fiery and independent and hilarious, and often does things that I find infuriating. Most nights when she falls asleep I breathe a sigh of relief.
And still, as I told my therapist, I think that my mental health (particularly in these pandemic times) is better because of Leona. By this I mean that without Leona in my life, I think I’d be in a worse place, mental-health wise. Obviously I can’t really know whether this is true. But here’s what I do know.
Leona loves to laugh. Sometimes she asks me to tickle her so that she can laugh. Sometimes she tells jokes to laugh, and sometimes she just laughs. She makes me laugh, too.
She sees beauty in most everything. “Mama look!” is a near-constant refrain on walks in our neighborhood as she points to leaves, squirrels, tiny rocks. She helps me to see the beauty, too.
Spending time with Leona keeps me in the present moment. If my mind wanders too much she pulls me back again which, I’ve learned, is a gift. She’s teaching me to strive to stay present.
She cares for me in so many ways. A few weeks ago I was feeling sad about something, and she noticed. After asking “Mama okay?” and not getting an answer, she climbed into my lap and requested to nurse. My spouse pointed out that she was taking care of me—she’s figured out that time nursing isn’t only a comfort for her, but is for me as well.
I love this small human so much that it makes my heart hurt sometimes. And in these times with so much horror and sadness all around, I am particularly grateful for the ways she keeps me present, helps me see beauty, and makes me laugh. My prayer is that others can find ways to do these things as well, even without a fierce 2 year old in their lives.
May it be so. Amen
Hannah Campbell Gustafson
Hannah Campbell Gustafson and her family recently made a leap of faith and moved to Minneapolis, MN from rural Wisconsin. She is the outreach coordinator at Plymouth Congregational Church. Hannah is treasurer for the Mental Health Network, is trained as a social worker, has an MDiv, and is a Member in Discernment with the Southwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the UCC. She and her partner (an ELCA Lutheran pastor) share their lives with their young child Leona and their standard poodle puppy Óscar.