Children have a way of saying exactly what you need to hear, especially when you don't want to hear it. That's the beauty of parenting. Children are raw, unfiltered, little beings who speak straight from their honest hearts to our cynical ears.
Late one night I am working on my laptop on the couch in the den when my youngest, her face heavy with sleep, wanders in and curls up next to me. She peers over my shoulder at the words on the computer screen.
"Mommy," she whispers as I tap away furiously on the keyboard. I know I should probably send her back to bed because it is late, and I'm trying to concentrate, but I'm far too weary, and she's far too cute. "I have a secret," she whispers.
"What is it?" I ask absentmindedly as I focus on my half-filled computer screen trying to replace an awkward transition between two paragraphs.
"I love you even when you're mean," she says smiling with her entire face.
I stop typing almost immediately and try to get my arms around her very perceptive statement. I decide it is the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me, the ultimate expression of unconditional love.
"Sweetie, that's so nice," I say humbly. "And I love you even when you're mean," I add.
She looks at me curiously as she takes in what is meant to be an equally loving statement. She sits up and pulls away from my shoulder.
"Mommy, I'm never mean," she says incredulously with a how-dare-you tone in her tired, husky voice.
Obviously, the self-awareness doesn't always flow in both directions. Earlier in the evening I had been angry at her because she refused to go through the pre-bedtime ritual of teeth-brushing, reading, prayers, and lights out. When she got mad at me about the type of toothpaste I had purchased that day, I put her to bed without reading a book and left the room. I felt a little guilty about it, but the truth was that I had had enough. It was lights out for my patience.
"Mommy, I came out here because I wanted to give you a chance to be nice," she says in a serious voice with folded arms.
Whatever ill-will I harbored from the bedtime tantrum had disappeared. I reach over and pull her into my chest. "Thanks, Baby, I needed that opportunity more than you know."
Amanda is the mom of two girls, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including one on motherhood called "Smotherhood." Find her here on Mondays.