As I lay in bed, dozing in and out of sleep, a gentle nudge startled me.

“Mommy, it’s time to wake up,” my daughter whispered in my ear. I glanced at the clock, letting out an audible sigh as I told my daughter it was far too early to be awake. Irritated, I told her to crawl into bed and I turned on the television in hopes of getting a few more minutes of sleep.

Despite a king size bed, my petite child crawled her way to my side, her arm draped over my body as she quietly said, “I need a hug.” Another grumble left my mouth as I slowly fell into a light sleep to sounds of my daughter reciting the theme song to Paw Patrol.

For so many years, I longed for the moments of hugs and unconditional love—just not before the crack of dawn.

I grew up in a tight knit family, with a mother who is now more of a best friend to me, and I hoped that someday I would be blessed with a daughter to share a similar bond with.

Our road to parenthood didn’t come easily for my husband and me. After years of infertility and the loss of two children, our surviving triplet was finally overcoming her medically fragile start to become a healthy little girl. For the first two years of her life, I fretted over her premature stature and wondered if she would ever catch up to children her own age. Time was moving at a snail’s pace and I couldn’t wait for the day when she might be considered “healthy” and “normal.”

If only I could go back in time and embrace those slow days.

By the time she turned 3 years old, doctors cheered as they told us our child was officially caught up. The days of praying for time to speed up gave way to me searching for the pause button in life. My daughter became more independent and curious of the world around her. The days of grabbing my hand for help were few and far between.

Instead, I found myself on the sideline of my daughter’s childhood, a bittersweet feeling as I watched her figure out how to do many simple tasks on her own.

She no longer needed help to reach the bathroom sink. She didn’t want me put on her shoes, she could do it all by herself. Even getting in and out of the car was no longer a challenge; there was no need for a gentle boost to get into the tall SUV.

While my daughter became rapidly independent, something changed when she turned 4 last month. In recent weeks, she has suddenly become clingy—wanting and needing mom and dad at a moment’s notice. At first, the cries for hugs and kisses were endearing, making my heart swell with pride. My daughter needed me, and her little gestures offered a sweet reminder.

But lately, in the hustle and bustle of life, I found myself pulling back. After 10 repetitive hugs, I needed to get to work. After her offers of kisses on my cheeks, hands, even feet, I needed to get dinner made.

It’s hard to admit, but the clinginess was starting to smother me.

As the sounds of early morning cartoons danced through my dreams, that little nudge arrived once again. “Mommy, the show is over,” my daughter said. I opened my eyes in my foggy state and was brought back to reality.

My little girl was laying next to me, her arm draped over me, her face only an inch from mine. As I looked at her beautiful eyes staring deep into mine, the creases of my mouth crept up into a smile. She matched my smile with one of her own, as she whispered the words, “I love you, Mommy.”

Yes, my daughter needs me, sometimes a little too much. But, that’s OK. All it took was an early morning wake-up call to realize that it’s time to cherish those moments.

The days of her needing me won’t last forever. So I’ll take every kiss and hug I can get, even if it’s 50 hugs in a row.