I don’t need to tell you what our Saturday nights of yore were like, back when we were young(er) and didn’t have gray streaks running through our hair and would actually be bored on a weekend. You know what they were like, because you lived them at one point, too. You were out of the house, drinking and eating and seeing neat sights that cost money to access, and you didn’t care if you went to bed late because you could sleep in and whatever, man, just bring me another beer, okay?
This Saturday night found us cooking hot dogs (vegetarian for me and the girls, because apparently now that the first trimester is over, unless it’s a McDonald’s cheeseburger, I am a STRICT vegetarian. Strict, I tell you. Except for that chicken I had yesterday, but only because I was famished and had to eat before I started gnawing away at my own arm. I’m so back on the wagon, yessir…except for the cheeseburger I’m suddenly craving because I just wrote the words “McDonald’s cheeseburger” right there. Dagnabit.). It was a good night–an easy night in this 105-degree day. It was hot dogs and s’mores and a kid-friendly movie night involving the four of us piled up on the couch in the family room, sitting shoulder to shoulder, legs and arms and stuffed animals draped all over each other, watching Winnie the Pooh, which has to be my least favorite child character of all time, except maybe for Spongebob, because he’s weird, but this was for the kids, so fine, we’ll listen to Pooh whine about honey for an hour. But seriously, it’s called an addiction, Pooh. Go get some help. But make sure to pick me up a cheeseburger first.
A strong thunderstorm was rolling into our little valley as the movie ended and we were shuttling small bodies up the stairs to bed. SK’s decided in the last year that she is absolutely terrified of storms (and thunder, and the dark, and movie theaters), so she asked if she could sleep in our bed for a while. At the risk of offending every single attachment parent out there (sorry, ladies), our children don’t sleep in our bed. Ever. Well, ever, unless they’re barfing or have a scary temperature or we’re sharing a room while away…or if they’re afraid of a big, bad thunderstorm. They just don’t. Our kids are excellent sleepers–they actually prefer their own beds to ours, even when they’re sick, so it’s a non-issue for us, usually. Unless the big, bad storm is over our house, of course.
Quinn, true to Quinn’s nature (that is, she wakes up in tears if someone creaks her door open too quickly, but will pass out in the middle of a hailstorm railing against her window), fell asleep right away in her crib. SK climbed into our bed as promised, a smile on her face like I’d just offered her ice cream with cotton candy on top. The storm was fading, but she was settled in for the night, and didn’t want me to leave. I excused myself for a few minutes, moved David’s pillows into her room, scuttled downstairs to shove that last s’more into my gob and say good night to my husband, and climbed back into bed with our daughter. It was 8:18 p.m.
We talked. She propped her feet onto my leg. And when she started to fall asleep, she rolled over and placed her little hand on my shoulder, making sure I was still there. In the middle of the night she had a dream–”No! Don’t take my cars! My cars!”–and I rubbed her back to calm her down. She was such a restless sleeper when she was a toddler, but that night she was still, her long body peaceful, hugging a stuffed flower and her blanket, her Thomas the Tank Engine pillow under her tangled, shiny brown hair.
I slept 10 1/2 hours that night. Poor David most certainly did not. And I woke up to a grinning little girl with her head on my shoulder, asking me what was for breakfast. ”Mom?” she said. ”I had fun sleeping with you.”
(Yeah, yeah, I hear you, attachment parenters. Stop it, already, will you? I’m having a moment.)
Sunday evening found us driving home from a party with David’s family, damp swimsuits and towels crammed into a bag, exhausted children with their hair still wet pointing out the funny trucks on the road and airplanes in the sky. As we drew closer to our house, Saoirse started asking if it was going to storm. She told us she was afraid of the dark, and we assured her that there was nothing to be scared of, that she had a nightlight and a door open and we were right there. There was a pause. And then:
“Mom? I don’t get to spend much time with you when I’m sleeping.”
“So can I sleep again with you tonight?”
My heart caved in a little. I told her that Daddy needed to sleep in his own bed, and she needed to sleep in hers. She didn’t argue, didn’t fight, but told me she would miss me.
The funny thing is, I missed her a little last night, too. As they get older these kids don’t sit still long enough to be held. When we watch a show together, usually SK sits on an ottoman, by herself. A hug from her will last a half second before she’s off, off to play, to search, to grow up. I miss the smell of her hair and those little hands that are so much bigger than what I remember. I’m ridiculous. She’s only four. But Quinn is the opposite right now–she wants to be picked up, wants to curl up on the couch, wants to lean against me with her thumb in her mouth, always, always. It drives me crazy sometimes, constantly having someone on me (yeah, I know. Good mindset going into another newborn phase, huh?). But in only two years, she’s going to be that little person, too, who has grown so independent it’s almost a treat when she wants to climb under our covers to escape a scary storm.
People ask me when I’m going back to work, what I’m going to do when the kids are in school. Will I teach again? Will I write? Our oldest will be in elementary school in a couple of years, and people want to know. I can’t answer that right now. Because right now I’m just trying to hold on to this.