Like most young mothers, I’m exhausted by the end of the day. Between juggling work, home, and relationship responsibilities, by 5:00 pm I’m ready to clock out. In reality, things are just ramping up.
There are bookbags to be emptied, teeth to brush, food to cook (and serve…and clean up), bedtime stories to read, and always some variation on a last-minute scramble to prepare for the pending costume day (insert other activity/request) everyone forgot until 9 pm.
By the time the final homework sheet is completed, the last cup of water has been fetched, and the last bedtime story has been read, I feel like I’ve gone through the proverbial wringer (which reminds me, I almost certainly need to fit in one last load of laundry before my own bedtime).
While parenting is deeply rewarding, it is also more exhausting and all-consuming than I ever dreamed possible. There are times I feel like I’m raising strangers; kids who say and do things that defy logic or, more likely, my own ideals for behavioural choices. I’m raising kids who will take a shirt off the hook, look at it, decide it’s not quite right for the day and then put both shirt and hanger in the middle of their bedroom floor in a heap and move on to another selection in the closet. This process is repeated as often as necessary.
I love hacks and resets – small behaviours that improve my quality of life or help propel me in the direction I want to go. And one of my favourite antidotes to the rigors of parenting (and general wear and tear of life): watching my kids sleep.
Observing them in this state – silent, still, and hopelessly adorable – does produce a complicated wave of emotions and I run the familiar gauntlet every single night. My heart bursts with tenderness, an emotion I can’t always generate in the middle of the day when I’m staring at those discarded shirts on their bedroom floor. As I climb in next to them and kiss their cheeks, I take time to just be. I’m not parenting or correcting or comforting or serving in any way. They get a chance to replenish my emotional stores, and it takes nothing more than a sigh or a stretch or a nose twitch. I see the ridges on his face from blankie, source of comfort every night since birth; I lean in and smell her freshly washed hair.
But my heart also aches. I have a sense that every night they’re slipping just a bit further away from me. When they’re awake how often I’ve relished the thought – how soon until they’re out of diapers, how soon until they don’t need me to button their buttons, how soon until they’re out of a 5-point harness, how soon until they can cut their own food?
Then that time comes. There is no more diapering or buttoning or car seats or food cutting in my household.
Soon I’ll be asleep before they are. Their hurts will, undoubtedly, stretch beyond brown blankies’ magical restorative powers. We all know what happens in I’ll Love You Forever (or, if you don’t, get a copy: stat). It’s a cycle as natural and old as time itself, but taking the time to savour does help slow it.
Stop it? Impossible. But slow it, yes.
For now he clutches blankie, her skin is free from pimples. They sleep easy and long, in contorted conditions that would send me straight to a chiropractor. I won’t be able to savour these moments forever. Other moments – good ones – will come. But for now, in this season, these are some of the best moments. Like a daily sunset – poignant and beautiful and breathtaking and fleeting and unique; and worth chasing every chance I get.
So I take pictures and kiss cheeks and every day when I think “How much longer?” I can answer, for now, there are still many nights to go.