Two things need to happen before 4-year-old Payton Zarosky can go to bed each night. She and her mom Kristen first have to snuggle together, then they get all their giggles and laughs so they can go to bed with smiles on their faces.
Kristen has wanted exactly these moments for as long as she could remember, and the depth of that desire helps her take nothing for granted in the special relationship she has with Payton.
Kristen is a mommy who gives Payton tough love when she needs it, but more than anything the two are best friends who do everything together.
“I love snuggling with her at night time,” Payton said. “We play with Mommy and do Play Doh together sometimes, and I like going to the toy store with her.”
There’s so much love and purpose in everything Kristen does because she has always felt like being a mother was her life’s purpose. So, snuggling with Payton and taking her to the toy store is just part of fulfilling a dream. She is built for this, and it shows.
“Even from when she was a little girl in elementary school, her career goal was to be a mommy,” husband John said. “That is what she grew up wanting to be. Some people want to be doctors or lawyers. She wanted to be a mommy, and she has put her heart and soul into doing that.
“She cares so much for our family, for me, Payton and our dog Zoey. She puts all of us before herself. That’s what makes her so special. She is so selfless.”
Kristen used to channel that selflessness as a teacher for three years before Payton came along, but she jumped at the chance to be a full-time mom. She shoves everything aside to make sure Payton gets all the care and attention she needs and gets all the valuable experiences she can in life.
“She would rather take Payton to preschool, then swim class, then dance class, then soccer practice all in the same day, rather than put herself first,” John said. “She’s going to make sure Payton has all the experiences she can fit in a day before she does anything for herself.”
Kristen brings the very definition of commitment to her parenting, and she never puts motherhood on cruise control. Payton relies on her for guidance, and Kristen gets the fulfillment of a job well done, not to mention a best friend for life in an adoring daughter.
“With Payton, Kristen is her best friend,” John said. “She’s her companion. She’s her go-to person, and Kristen cherishes that.”
Kristen’s kindness has rubbed off on John, too. She is the perfect complement to his gruffness and helps smooth out his rough edges every day.
“I can come across as rude or gruff or rough around the edges, and Kristen has always pushed me to be more polite and nicer,” John said. “She is the most honest person I’ve ever met. She’s always pushing me to bring out the better qualities in myself.
“She inspires me to be kinder to people and always put that side of me first.”
From the “smoking hot blonde in cowboy boots” he met at a Hootie and the Blowfish concert to the love of his life and the mother of his little girl, Kristen has always dazzled John with her gentle demeanor, her wit and her smarts.
It didn’t take long after they hit it off — “I was there to see Hootie, she was there to hang out with friends” — to realize they wanted the same things in life.
“Pretty much within the first six months of meeting her, we knew we had the same goals and values,” John said. “We both wanted to start a family.”
John had an idea how great Kristen would be as a mom way back then, but she has run laps around his expectations. She has proven herself again and again and again a loving wife and an amazing mom.
She has also made life complete for John and Payton.
“With her as my wife and as the mother to my daughter, it helps make my life complete,” John said. “There are parts of my life that were missing, that were incomplete, that she comes in and she just makes everything whole and she makes our family go.”
Payton likes to share how she feels about her mom and can’t help but show it.
She holds her arms out wide when she says:
“I love her this much.”