By Elizabeth Bottiaux
I watch his little chest rise and fall. Finally, he begins his much anticipated deep, rhythmic breathing. Sleep. My 4-year-old has drifted off to dreamland. I devise the escape route.
Holding my breath, I tighten my stomach muscles and, using extreme caution, roll slowly to the left. The twin bed squeaks and squawks. It threatens to blow my cover. Landing stealthily on my knees, onto the plush carpet, I get low and army crawl to the door. I’m nearly there. Silence and relaxation in my bedroom just down the hall beckon me. I long for our child-free, post-bedtime master bedroom oasis. No kids fighting, complaining, whining…
My exit strategy has failed. I’ve been caught. It’s all over. Back to square one. Rookie mistake, and I’m no rookie. Didn’t wait for deep sleep. That’s key for any successful departure.
“Where are you going?”
Inside I’m screaming, crying, begging, pleading for dear mercy. For the love of all that is holy, sweet child, “What?! What, child?”
He’s the baby of the family, and what they say is true. All of it. I never laid in bed with the older kids and coaxed them into dreamland. No way. Yet here I am, doing what I always preached about not doing. There’s just something about knowing they’re your last baby.
My mostly mellow little man morphs into a wild, high-strung, bouncing on the bed, running all around bundle of bedtime energy. While his older siblings melt into bed, without a huge amount of hoopla, he’s launched into his anti-bedtime campaign.
Well, I’m tired of funding it.
Begrudgingly, I flop down on his bed—again. Big brother is already fast asleep, across the bedroom. The sisters are silent, probably asleep too.
I wriggle over to him. His little peepers are fluttering; fighting to stay open. We gaze at each other. It’s hard to stay mad. He lays his little boy hand on top of mine and smiles at me.
That’s why I’m a whimp. That little moment when he sucks me in. Then I know, I know that these fleeting moments aren’t forever. They’re like dust in the wind, evaporating droplets of water, temporary.
Sometimes it’s hard to hold that perspective. There are so many things they do that annoy the niceness out of me. The everyday shuffle can be agonizing. I used to get annoyed when those little old ladies in the grocery store would say, with knowing smiles, “Enjoy this time. It goes fast.”
My kids are growing up. There won’t always be a colossal mound of stinky laundry piled in the laundry room. Those mysterious unnamed elves who make messes all throughout our home will evaporate. Toilets will be flushed. Remote controls and other devices won’t have batteries removed by little boys with daddy’s screwdrivers. My hair brush will be in its correct drawer. My high heels will be parked in my closet instead of on the feet of little girls playing dress up. Our home will be strangely silent.
Parenthood is only one season of life. It’s not always going to be this way. I know this, and yet it’s hard to grasp during those tough days. We need those simple, small moments that make all the other chaos worth enduring.
Next time I lie with him could be my last. Soon he won’t want me to snuggle with him, burrow my nose into his silky hair and tell him I love him. I’ll take today’s blessings and turn them into tomorrow’s memories.
Elizabeth Bottiaux is mom to four small humans, ages 4, 6, 8 and 10. She’s a San Clemente resident and has lived in Orange County for the past 16 years. She publishes a blog, www.fourkidsandadog.com, about family life in our tri-city area.