The minute I saw the subject for this week’s weekly photo challenge I knew I had just taken a perfect picture for it. It’s a little blurry but captures the excitement that’s going on in our house now. Ages 2 and 5, my children are at the ideal age to revel in the magic of Christmas. Our neighbours had their lights up early this year, in mid-November, and my son insisted we follow suit ASAP. Of course one string of lights wasn’t enough; we had to stretch out all the lights we could find all around our family room. My daughter (almost 2.5) was right in on it this year. My son is the perfect teacher, bringing her up to snuff on all that is important about preparing for Christmas.
It’s 5:00 a.m.. My daughter woke a few minutes ago, crying “Dollo! Dollo!” so I crept from the big bed to find her favorite dolly in the mess of stuffed animals and blankets that fill her crib. After a few minutes of rocking and a restart of Twinkle Twinkle on her stereo, I crept out. I tiptoed into my room and silently picked up my slippers, cursing the random toy that slipped off the dresser when I passed. My husband and son were splayed out on the big bed, still wrapped up in the cozy wonderfulness that is sleep.
I yearn for a few minutes of quiet each day, a snippet of peace when no tiny child needs another snack, help fixing a Lego airplane or a big hug after a fall. Sometimes I find my quiet at 5:00 a.m., if I can sneak downstairs and will the coffee pot to do its magic quietly. Then it’s just me, the hum of the refrigerator and the occasional flicker of the outside motion light from a deer rooting around in the yard, enjoying her peace too.
My days seem to sort themselves out better when they start this way, even though it’s early.
What about you? Where do you find your quiet?
Our local pool has $3 swimming for families on Saturday afternoon. Yesterday was a dreary day, too cool for the park, so we headed to the pool with every other family from our neighbourhood. I love family swim time. I also hate it with a vengeance. Why, you ask?
- The hair on the changing room floor. It was beyond disgusting. That floor hadn’t been cleaned since last Tuesday. It was a land mine of hair. I gave up trying to find clean patches to step on and resigned myself to coming home with some deadly disease plastered to the bottom of my feet. On the flip side, I love that my bathroom floor looks pristine and practically magazine-worthy in comparison.
- The shivering, whining waiting to get into a family change room. About eight tiny change rooms lined up down a long, narrow, floor-hair infested hallway. We waited and waited for a door to open up so we could change into our suits. It reminded me of a game-show where you don’t know which door is going to open next. We were competing for an open door with ten other families so every time a door opened, the mothers nervously glanced at each other, evaluating which family had been waiting the longest for a room. I was flabbergasted when a door finally opened and out came mom, dad, little girl, other little girl, little boy…they just kept coming, like people climbing out of a Volkswagen beetle in the commercial. Just when I thought it was safe to enter, grandma came out too. That group took “family change room” seriously I guess. On the bright side, the change room made the bathroom in our 1966 home seem huge in comparison. I won’t complain anymore when our whole family is clamouring in there together in the mornings.
- The screaming. Release one hundred kids from the confines of home and school and chaos ensues. Children were shouting, splashing and thrashing around. A week’s worth of forced-quietness at school or daycare was unleashed in two hours of madness. Dads weren’t dads anymore; they were hungry sharks. Moms let go of the rules and leaned back into the water to breathe, if only for a moment. The look on my own children’s faces was pure joy. I’ll put up with the shrieking and yelling any day to see my two in such bliss. They were so worn out when we got home that the bickering and picking and poking at each other disappeared, for a few hours at least.
- The pee in the baby pool. Baby pools scare me. Does anyone else remember the signs at hotel pools in the 80s that said, “This is our OOL. Notice there is no P in it?” Great idea except babies can’t read. Both my children bee-lined for the baby pool, even though I tried to convince them otherwise. My two-year-old daughter decided that she was very, very thirsty. She defiantly scooped up that pee-water and drank it by the handful. Every time I asked her to stop she gave me an evil grin and lapped up even more. But really, aren’t I always trying to get my children to drink more water? Gag.
- The post-swim sleep. As a parent of young ones, life is all about sleep. Our days and activities are planned around naps and bedtime with one goal in mind: getting our children to sleep as much as possible. After our wild weekend swim, both children slept. My son, typically ready to rise and shine at 5:00, slept in until practically noon. That’s what 6:15 feels like when you are used to 5:00. I thought my daughter must have been in a coma, as we didn’t hear a peep from her until after 7:00.
We’ll be there next weekend so I hope to see you too. First I need to make a quick stop at Target for a family pack of flip-flops.
Late at night when the house is still enough to hear the whirring of the refrigerator and the buzz of the odd car on the road beyond the high trees, there is a stirring. The groaning of a mattress spring, the creak of small feet on hardwood and the click of a door are hardly noticeable to anyone unfortunate enough to be awake in the late, late hours of the night.
The hasty thump thump of small steps on the carpeted hallway flee the horrendous monsters under the bed; monsters now locked in the bedroom with no one to frighten.
The door pushes open and a small shadowy pyjama-clad figure bursts in quietly. He is stealthy. His heart is racing. He is holding his breath. The monsters have lost their power with his arrival. He is safe.
He creeps up on the Big Bed, his stuffed doggie clutched in his right hand. He climbs up to the special pillow in the middle. Momma on one side, Daddy on the other, he slides his feet down into the comforting warmth of his safe place. His small hand reaches over to rest on my cheek and his doggie tucks under his chin. He exhales and shuts his eyes, asleep in seconds.
We followed all the rules when he was a baby. “Train him to sleep in his crib, in his own room” the book said. “Don’t let him get used to sleeping with you” the expert warned. He slept like a darn by himself and loved his own bed dearly, until he turned three and the monsters of his vivid imagination took over. The bedtime wails of his newborn sister didn’t help.
Now he is five and a half and eyebrows rise when I mention our little visitor who enters in the darkest hours of the night. A few years of parenting under my belt and I don’t care what others think. He is young and he is afraid. He is my boy and I am his momma.
I’m sure our nighttime ninja will be gone as swiftly as he came, older and stronger and independent. I won’t miss the odd kick in my side, arm flung across my ear and 5:30 wake ups. I know I’ll miss the running steps in the hall and the quiet, grateful hand on my cheek.
This week’s photo challenge asked bloggers to choose a photo that shows “horizon”. I immediately thought of this picture of my daughter, taken on a hot day in early September. We were at the beach close to our house. There were only a few other people there and the tide was out, making the perfect sandbar for the kids to play on. Behind us, my son and husband were net fishing in a warm tide pool. The water was icy, icy cold but my daughter didn’t care. She beelined far out into the ocean, so far that she looked teeny tiny in the vastness of the water. She has no fear yet, my two-year old. I hope she can hang on to her boldness as long as possible.
I’ve been at home with you since you were born, over five and a half years. The longest I’ve been apart from you is three hours for a few mornings a week of preschool and the odd shopping trip, movie night or weekend away. I’ve never had the opportunity to miss you on a daily basis.
There were many days when it was rare for you to be more than an arm’s length away from me. We were together a lot.
When your little sister was tucked in for her afternoon nap, we built Lego. You soaked up the time alone with me. We had two overloaded drawers of Lego and two hours of quiet; our silence punctuated only by, “Can you find Batman’s head?” and “I need help getting these pieces apart!” and “Don’t look! I’m not finished yet!” Sometimes I’d doze off on your bed while you built. You didn’t mind. My presence was what you wanted.
You are in kindergarten now. I think you are doing okay. I hope so. I try not to worry that you might be playing alone at recess. I pray.
Now when your sister naps you aren’t here. I have a glorious two hours of time to myself, time I’ve been looking forward to for months. It’s a treat, but I do miss you.
Our Lego time is on the weekends or in the evenings now. It’s far more meaningful.
Our laughter together is louder and mine more genuine when you announce “I tooted Momma!” or some other silly thing.
I listen to you more carefully when you chatter away happily about school because I haven’t been listening to you all day long.
I don’t mind when you charge into the house after school like a runaway train, your backpack, bike helmet and Superman lunch bag flying around the living room. The mess is the only one you’ve made all day.
I see you, really see you, when you look at me. I’m more curious about how you feel because I haven’t been there all day to hear what makes you sad or excited or angry.
I’m more willing to answer your endless “why?” questions because I haven’t had a steady stream of them like I used to.
When we sing our off-key bedtime duets to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and The Rainbow Song I think our voices mixing together may just be a little preview of what heaven sounds like.
When I wake up in the night and you’ve snuck into the middle of the big bed, with your little breaths and your hair that smells like sunshine, your arm flung on my back, I think about how lucky we are to have a snuggly nighttime visitor for a little while longer.
You give me loud, smacking kisses on my cheek. You hug me tighter and neither of us lets go as fast as we used to.
This kindergarten thing is not so bad. It’s exactly what we needed. I love you.
(An earlier version of this post was published on The Purple Fig.)