“Momma. Momma? Momma!!!”
It’s the darkest time of night.
A little voice crashes into my slumber.
Creak, crack go the floorboards as I fumble towards her room.
Her tiny face, muddled with sleep,
is happy to see me.
Like in the old days
hour after hour she would call and her daddy or I would go
Creak, crack on the floorboards, fumbling towards her room,
Again and again.
A steady hot river of coffee flowed into our veins, lifting us above the days, weeks, months and years of
Now the nighttime calls are less frequent.
They are almost a privilege,
The closing of the chapters of six years and two babies.
When the call comes I go
Creak, crack on the floorboards, fumbling towards her room,
To hold her close and rock her
Breathe in her warm smell
And listen to her gentle breaths
That echo those long, long nights that are slowly fading.
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?
Then the get-her-to-go-back-to-sleep game begins. I turn on her lullaby CD, make sure she has her soother, two dolls and baby orca stuffie and change her diaper stealthily, all without making too much eye contact.
I know the jig is up if she starts yelling “milkel! milkel!” or “book! book!” If I hear either of those words I know it’s all over. She’s up. I’m up. I turn on the lights.
However… if I successfully change her with no shouts there is a tiny chance she will go back to sleep.
I bundle up an armful of toddler, dolls and “bankies” (blankets) and rock her in our rickety old chair. The chair is on its last legs but the reassuring creaks and cracks lull my little one back to calmness.
Her big blue eyes start to flutter a little and I gather her up, ease her into the crib and tiptoe out of the room. I close her door as quietly as possible then pause at my bedroom door and listen. Music to my ears is hearing my husband and five-year-old son breathing deeply in the big bed; still asleep. Most mornings I hear a chipper little boy voice asking, “Daddy? Is it time to wake up? Where’s Mommy? Can I go find Mommy?”
My favorite days are the days when all three are sleeping and there is a chance for a few minutes alone. I tiptoe down the stairs, quieter than Santa on Christmas Eve. The bottom step is the worst; no matter where I step, some days it creaks, other days it doesn’t. Once down, I sneak into the kitchen, careful not to turn on many lights.
I flick the switch on the coffee maker. Usually (because Murphy’s Law is always in effect around here) one of the children wakes up the minute the coffee begins to drip. Our coffee maker is so loud that it sounds exactly like the pot full of boiling eggs my grandma used to make when I slept over. If I’m lucky enough to pour some coffee, the three loud beeps signalling that the brewing is finished will most definitely wake someone up and the cry of “Momma! Momma!” begins.
If, by some miracle, no one wakes from the beeps I’ll either knock something over, step on a piece of Lego or crash into the table and break the silence.
The other day I was so eager for some alone time that I crammed my feet into my five-year-old son’s Incredible Hulk socks rather than go upstairs to find my slippers.
Chances are pretty low that the quiet will last longer than 10 or 15 minutes. I admit that I love it when one child wakes before the other. I pour them some milk and have some precious early morning cuddles with them before the sibling rivalry, hugs, yells and laughter begin for another day.
Do any of you get almost desperate for a few minutes of alone time? How do you find it?
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The irony of the whole thing is that I literally have about one hour of free time each evening to do what I want to do. So it’s the time of my life with the most to write about but the time of my life that I have absolutely no time to write it.
Our little family has been through some real ups and downs. Right now we are in a great big “up”- one of those times when life is so sweet and wonderful that you almost don’t want to breathe because you know things can change in an instant. One of those times that I feel my heart could burst at any moment with awe at the grace I feel to have such blessings surrounding me.
It’s the ultimate catch-22: the little blessings that wake me up at all hours of the night, keep me running, stepping on Lego, cleaning up stinky messes, playing referee and leave me begging for solitude some days, are also the little blessings that make me love in a way I didn’t realize was possible. In parenting the highs are high and the lows are low. If you don’t have the lows you can’t appreciate the highs in the same way.
Getting two children to sleep, stay asleep and sleep past 5:00 a.m. is an Olympic event in our house.
- Once your darling toddler is sleeping through the night again (after a brief, 9 month hiatus of getting 16 teeth), she wakes at 5:00 a.m. for a diaper change. This isn’t much to complain about if you usually rock her for 2 hours in the middle of the night, but still, 5:00 a.m. is early.
- Your toddler quickly falls back to sleep, at which point your 4-year-old immediately wakes up and asks “is it time to wake up, Momma?” in that really loud, awake-sounding voice that means he is definitely not falling back to sleep. You know the voice. Resistance is futile.
- You try everything under the sun to
forceencourage said child to stay in bed: night lights that change colour at parents’ preferred wake time, numbers printed above a digital clock with a hopeful “7:00”, begging, pleading. These things work sometimes with a singleton. It is all a little more complicated when there is an eagle-eared, sleeping toddler on the other side of a paper-thin wall.
- At every 5:00 a.m. wake up you promise yourself that you will go to bed early that night. Even if you dragged yourself around like a wet blanket all day, you will get an instant second wind the minute everyone is asleep. You stay up way too late, wake at 5:00 the next day and the pattern repeats itself over and over.
- On the day you have a babysitter booked and really, really want your toddler to have a good nap she won’t. She will have trouble getting to sleep. You will need to change her diaper two extra times. The minute she is finally sleeping your preschooler will run up the stairs, yelling, “Momma? Momma? Where ARE you?” and the little one’s eyes will burst open.
- When your youngest is between 12 and 18 months old and (some days) you manage to function somewhat normally, you will sit in the rocking chair, hum Ave Maria and stare at the beautiful, precious child in your arms. That vanilla-cupcake baby smell, the soft hair, velvety-smooth cheeks and tiny baby breaths make it all worthwhile. 🙂
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Little A has been “walking” for months by holding onto hands. Anyone’s hands will do: mine, D’s, Brother B’s (which is adorable!). Around Mother’s Day she gathered up her courage and walked from person to person. This week she got brave. D’s parents are visiting and everyone was sitting in the living room. I was banging and crashing in the kitchen by myself when I heard “Mah-Mah? Mahhhhh-Mah?” Then, “thump, thump, thump, thump” as her tiny body and delighted face peeked around the corner. She ran to me with that look that people have when they’ve returned from a long journey and first see a loved one. It was the longest journey she had ever taken. Her shining eyes said, “You are everything to me. Thank you. Thank you for being up in the night with me for months and months. Thank you for putting me first. Thank you for being my Mah-mah.”
If you are struggling with a new baby and trying to find yourself in the crazy new world of motherhood, hang on. Your reward is coming, sooner than you think. Blessings.
Sunday. The night I love. Time for quiet. The night my freshly-turned-one-year-old decides to become a toddler.
What was once a soothing, relatively easy bedtime routine suddenly turns on its heel and becomes an all-out sporting event. Flipping and flopping like a slippery fish, Little A does not want to wear a diaper. I finagle her onto her back and somehow slap the sticky tabs on the diaper, lopsided. We cuddle for a few minutes, then I slip her a pink soother and put her favourite My First Dolly right onto her face, the way she likes. I turn on the lullabies and tiptoe out.
Two minutes later I’m back, summoned by calls of “Mah-mah! Mah-mah!” She has flung the soother out of the crib (on purpose) and is joyfully banging her head into the mattress and giggling. As I lift her out to rock her, I sing her favourite “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral” over and over. Her bright blue eyes finally start to waver, closing, closing, almost asleep…then fly open, focused on a tiny speck of light on the ceiling. Her tiny finger points and waves madly at the light. “Ah! Ah!” she yells, willing me to stop rocking and look up at the wonder she has discovered.
I am blessed.
It’s pretty simple. The night your baby finally sleeps through the night a few different scenarios will play out:
1. Your older child will begin co-sleeping, even though he or she has always slept (relatively) soundly in his or her own bed.
2. Your husband will start snoring, louder than he ever has before.
3. Both of the above.
Children wake up early. My children wake up earlier. 5:00 is an average day, 6:00 is pretty darn good and 7:00 is very, very rare. We never set an alarm. Booking a dentist appointment the other day, I figured we could take the earliest appointment (7:45) and be there with time to spare. Our day usually feels half over by 9:30 so this should be no problem. Naturally, this is the day that everyone sleeps in until 7:00. You think I’d learn.