We have fallen into a bedtime routine recently – reading 2-3 books downstairs, then marching up to the third floor where I sing to Seth as Micah does what he needs to do in the bathroom (“pee, wash hands, brush teeth” I say at least 7 or 8 times, every single night, trying to get him to go in that order!). Seth stands in the corner of his crib curiously observing Micah watch “one….and only one” (or sometimes two) YouTube videos (usually Star Wars Lego clips) on my phone. We then “say prayers” and lay there quietly while Micah falls asleep and Seth plops down into his crib and stuffed animals. Eventually, I wake up from my comatose state and tiptoe downstairs to find Noah (who often is watching a short video or playing with Ryan, but tonight was helping his aunt make an apple pie!).
Noah takes a nap at preschool despite my wishes that he wouldn’t, because his body doesn’t need much sleep. So this hour or so after Micah crashes and before Noah climbs into bed is usually “our” time. Sometimes we are running to Target for milk or diapers. Sometimes we are reading books or playing with Hot Wheels cars. Sometimes he plays on the office room floor while I run on the treadmill, frequently reminding him (or scolding him) about the dangers of putting his little toys or fingers into the moving track. At some point, when the cuteness wears off, I trudge him upstairs to bed.
He likes to climb into mine now and jump around a bit before settling into the crook of my arm. Then, anywhere between nine and midnight, Micah wakes up, finds me downstairs, begs to be carried upstairs (despite being half my body weight), and goes to my bed. I transfer kicked-out Noah to his crib mattress on the floor of the boys’ room and Micah snuggles into the warmed up section of bed. (When I’m ready to sleep, I just roll him over and get the warm sheets myself – very handy in the winter!)
Tonight, as I was putting the bouncy, almost 4-year-old Noah to sleep on my bed, I whispered “I love you, Noah” giving him a squeeze and kissing the top of his head. He replied, “Thank you, Mommy.” I paused just slightly, thinking about that thank you and said “You’re welcome.” He answered, “I like to have my Mommy love me.”
Boom. This is what it is all about. Despite the craziness of the days. Despite the arguing and squealing and wrestling the boys do. Despite the mess of yogurt flying from the end of a Gogurt tube as Seth flings it happily in the middle of the kitchen floor, mostly with joy to my yelling “no, no, no”. Despite the cleaning and the laundry. Despite the worry and the energy and the “mindfulness” of parenting.
It all comes down to the expression of love. The tight squeeze. The gentle kiss. The whispered words. And Noah thanks me because that’s what he needs in his life. To fall asleep knowing that he is loved.
I watched the movie Les Mis this afternoon with a couple other mothers. I was misty-eyed through much of it, naturally. The hardship and the pain and the injustice and deaths of so many. The contrast of living by the law and living by grace. There is so much power and truth in that story by Victor Hugo. One line at the end, though, catches my heart every time I hear it: “To love another person is to see the face of God” – uttered by Jean Valjean whose world was changed by love when he “adopted” little Cosette.
This is what I see in my boys. Created by God. Gifted to me. Loved by me. They have changed my world and I am trying hard to change theirs, wrapping them in love each day. I am mindful of saying it and expressing it. Of occasionally catching Micah as he runs by to give him a big kiss. Of whispering it in their ears when I have them close. Of signing it with my fingers to the back of the car. They need to know it. And sometimes…..yes, sometimes, they say “Thank you, Mommy.”