It’s 7:58 p.m. when I look at the clock! Baths done early, a special snack eaten, teeth sort-of brushed, tomorrow’s lunch made, coffee programmed for 6:15 a.m., and everyone is happy!
My preschool son gets into bed, asking for some water, to be covered up once, then again as he adjusts his stuffed alligator. It will take him a few minutes to settle down, but he will be sound asleep from a busy day.
My toddler daughter, sitting in my bed, hoping to sleep with me tonight. With their father gone on a work trip, I’ll let her settle down and will move her to her bed once she falls asleep. She has fallen asleep before like this, just wanting to be close by, even as I put away laundry and a few other tasks. Yet, as I return to my room after kissing my son good-night, I know my hope was not hers.
She is laughing and playing and excited! She looks at me as if it is a special time to play, to have fun, to enjoy. While her jammies are ready for slumber, her smile is celebrating time alone with Mommy!
For the next hour and a half we struggle.
Or rather, she cries and screams and pleads for go-gurt and Mommy’s bed. I, wait patiently for her energy to drain.
After some encouragement and reading as I rock in the chair in her room, I fall into the inevitable. I put her back into her bed, give her a kiss – as she continues to scream at me – and run for the door. I close the door behind me, locking it (we changed the locks after our son locked himself in), and sit in the hallway.
Not even two feet from her, I hear her try the knob, scream louder, fall to the floor in despair, get up to try the knob again, and back on the floor. At some point she crawls into her bed, or towards it, only to come back to the door and try the knob again!
The crying has not stopped. The tears and screams and pleads for “Mommy” and various other phrases seep through the thin door.
And somehow, in the same room where this drama is playing out, my son sleeps. He is completely out, oblivious that his sister is in the throes of desperation that her beloved Mommy is denying her love! He has been through this before, as the crying toddler and the understanding big brother.
Along the way I turn on the hall light and a continue to read a novel about Marie Antoinette. As my daughter pleads and cries from the other side of the door, this woman begins to realize that her life of abundance and duty is leading down a different road.
The cries begin to weaken. My daughter’s energy begins to wane.
She tries again at the knob, pleads again, and cries softly as she waits for a response. Soon I hear only a slight whimper and a girl climbing into bed.
Then silence. I turn another page, read a few more lines, then take a breath.
Dare I move?
I ready for bed, listening for any sound. I wait, barely thinking.
I approach the door and listen again, unlocking the door and slowly open to peer inside, praying that the sound will not raise her.
I crawl into my own bed, setting the alarm for an earlier than normal start, and continue to listen for her cries as I begin to sleep.
A few short hours later, a smallish body comes out of their room, faintly lighted from behind.
“Yes, Mason. I’m here.”
“I need…” his voice trails off in half-slumber.
I follow him to his bed, where he triumphantly scoops up his alligator from the floor and dives back under the covers. I pull the blankets up around him again. Kiss him again. And return to sleep. Praying for quiet, but knowing otherwise.
Another few hours later, cries.
She is awake.
My mind only partly engages, enough to know what is happening, but not enough to completely reason things through.
She is completely distraught, bundling blanket, pillow and blankie into her arms.
“Family room! Go-gurt!”
I know I shouldn’t, but with my husband gone, I could possibly get a bit more sleep.
I carry her into my room as she protests.
I lay her down, get in myself. Within a few seconds she is sound asleep.
The alarm rings early. I hit snooze. It rings again. I hit it again. It rings again…
I notice the sun sneaking around the blinds. This isn’t good.
Gracious Lord – your are our heavenly parent, our father and mother. I can not do this without you! Help me get through this phase and all the others that lay ahead. Help all parents reach out to you as I do now. Our nights, as our days, are not our own. All else it put aside. Help us cherish these moments, especially those when we sit on the other side of the door from our persistent angel, for they are everything. Amen.