As I write this my boys are not in bed sleeping. They are not tucked in and staying put. They are not obeying. They are not even pretending to be obeying.
They are hurling mini missiles at my bedroom door. I am hiding in here and counting down the minutes till I feel calmer and can go out and tuck them in again for what feels like the thousandth time tonight. When I will remember that I love them and that their chubby toes make me smile and that they will sleep at some point tonight and that I’d rather they be best friends and roommates who crush each other under the weight of their mutual admiration than not. Even if it ends up in tears and someone claiming that he can no longer breathe.
I sit under this yellow comforter and wait for that inevitable moment trying to figure out the intersection between grace and discipline.
When I was eleven I used to creep out of my bedroom and down the hallway to where my mom and dad were watching TV. He always got home so late, late. And I wanted to be part of their magical moments of reconnection – listening as they sifted through the day or just sat quiet together watching Thirty Something. I wanted to be where they were. And ice cream, I usually wanted ice cream as well.
My dad, he would notice me there, tucked in behind the living room wall hoping simultaneously to be invisible and invited. He would smile slow and quietly wave a hand toward me and I’d scuttle up around the back of the couch and into the crook of his arm. I would perch so quietly hoping by taking as few breaths as humanly possible I would manage to deflect my mother’s irritation.
But I was never quiet enough and she was always tired enough for three.
It took me right up until moments like tonight to understand what was going on in her head. And it’s that snapshot memory that keeps me from barreling down the hallway and yelling like the banshee I feel like on the inside. Tired, over stimulated with kid-speak, seeking sanctuary in a conversation or TV show, she still held her breath when her daughter wouldn’t stay in bed. And I’m guessing it cost her more than it cost the shallow breathing-please-let-me-stay eleven-year-old who was curled up on the couch in comfortable delight.
Sure, she may have muttered under her breath and sighed dramatically and glared in my direction. But she let me stay. She let me savor their alone time. She gave me the gift of a memory of closeness and not temper.
So tonight when I go back and open the door to the chaos and the boys and their delight at being up together and with me, I will understand what’s going on in their hearts and try hard to hold my breath. I may mutter and sigh at them and insist that they stay put. But I will also burrito hug them into their blankets. I will get them one more sip of water. I will turn the night lights just so and tuck in their toes exactly the way they like. And pray that one day they remember to return the favor for their own kids.