The sweetest time for me with each of my children is the brief time I get to spend with them each night when it is time to tuck them in. It is usually just the two of us, alone, in their own beds. Our most precious conversations occur then. These are the chats that remind me that maybe I did something right that day, even if small. They are the exchanges that give me energy to keep going, the encouragement to stay on the parenting track.
Our night time ritual has varied very little since my first was born nearly 9 years ago. Nine, wow, that is a long time for a habit. Early on, I was the one doing all the preparation for bedtime, often in fits of fighting and tears. Getting children dressed, brushing teeth, and doing the last pick-up at that final hour was wearying. By the time we reached the actual reading and tuck-in part, I was done. All I wanted to do was get it over and get downstairs, signaling the hopeful end of my day as a mother. But over the last several months, my youngest child has now transitioned to complete independence in this area. This leaves me with only the most enjoyable parts - reading and the official tuck-in.
The official tuck-in. A time of reassurances, kisses, hugs, love, prayers, and conversation. A time of undivided attention (less the occasional scream of when-are-you-coming-into-my-room-mom from another one). A time of understanding my children and who they are growing to be. A time that they do not have to battle to be heard over the chaotic noise of our home. A time of snippets of spiritual instruction and exchange.
It is a time of deep introspection for Ethan. With the house quieting down, he is finally able to focus on his thoughts which usually lead to spiritual ponderings. Around the time of his aunt's death, these inquiries lingered on her life, her walk with God, and the whys behind it all. Tough questions when the day was winding down, children tired and emotions a bit heightened. He produces a lot of questions in general, but more so when the sun is setting.
My middle girl's heart and words burst forth in plans and goals of the coming days. We often review the day's behavior and her successful attempts at self-control. As a true spirited child, Sadie has been a challenging joy. These moments when all is calm, really bring out the best in her. She shines in explaining all the grandiose inventions she has devised and in verbalizing complex interpretations of the social dynamics of those around her. Even in our most difficult days together, this is the time when I receive her true remorse and heart-felt apologies for her day's transgressions.
Little Lovey's time with me is spent doing her favorite thing, snuggling and whispering words of affirmation and unconditional love. She desires to be as close to me as possible, seemingly crawling under my skin. Her lids blinking more slowly while the tight-fisted hand rubs her eyes fighting the sleep that is coming. Butterfly kisses, deathly tight hugs and the rubbing of her belly are her usual requests. Throughout it all is her need to hear the promise that God is with her, protecting her, keeping her safe through the night.
I used to think of our nighttime ritual a bit begrudgingly, the last chore of the day. During those long, lost days of mothering 3 children, ages 4 and under, I frequently wanted to just crawl back into my bed. The ready for bed routine signaled the end of the day. Relief was near. It was the transition to one of the most sacred and coveted times for me, sleep. Fighting all exhaustion, mentally and physically, I would lean in for that last kiss and my attitude would soften. Something exchanged between me and my children in that moment. The tension simply dissipated. Then, my children would adorn me with the most sincere love and admiration that had been absent, forgotten the previous hours. Their sweet, kind words tumbling forth into undeserved declarations like, "You are the greatest mom, ever." They didn't know the full impact of those words during those darker days. They don't know the impact of them even today. They make me love being a mom. They make me believe I can do it again, if for just one more day.
Goodnight, my sweethearts.