Friday, June 06, 2008

The Last Child

LillianThe knock on the door was so quiet you wouldn’t have thought I’d hear it, just three little taps with pauses in between but I was instantly awake. My mom brain has been trained to hear everything that goes on in the house as night--I don't think I've slept completely through the night since the day Grace was born.

“Come in,” I said, full of anxiety because interruptions in the middle of the night are never good news. Lillian opened the door and she was sobbing. Not just a sniffling thing where she works every tear for pity points but sobbing-—her eyes were splotchy and her shoulders were hunched up and she was shaking with the force of it all.

“I’m scared! The wind is blowing the house down and I’m scared!” she said, nearly hysterical.

I’ve never been a very patient mother, I really do try to be calm--I promise I try--but I tend to push my kids along in an rush for efficiency and I don’t stop for much along the way. But . . . when there are emergencies I’m good. I'm not sure why but my emergency protocol programming kicks in and I’m patient and I know just what to do. Must be the adrenaline or something.

So though I can be less than an ideal mom during the day--especially during that critical 5-7 pm period where I've reached the absolute limit--when the kids wake up in the middle of the night I kick into emergency overdrive because they've always been good sleepers and they only wake up if it's serious. You know, when their bodies tell them that the three pounds of hot dogs they ate at the park that day aren't working and they end up doing a Jackson Pollock down the steps of their bunk bed?

It's not that I like the midnight messes or traumas--not at all--but there's something so sad and sweet about the kids when they've got sick in the middle of the night and they just need help. Once I’ve come to their rescue they’re always full of gratitude and they know that though I might have messed up during the day I really do love them and am trying my best.

I grabbed her and rolled her over the top of me to lay her down between Andrew and me in the bed and I wrapped my arms around her. She snuggled right down against me and her trembling sobs bubbled up all of my maternal instincts.

Her little body was so warm and soft, I held her tightly, stroking her head and cheek until she relaxed and could finally hold still. After a while she began to breathe evenly and I thought about all the late night feedings I'd been through and all the times the kids had woke up sick or scared and I actually enjoyed the memories--something I never thought I'd live to say.

She needed me and all I could think of was how wonderful it was to have her little arms around me and that it might be the last time my children wake up scared in the night looking for me. It hasn’t happened in about a year and the next time she’s scared she might not need me at all. Though the goal is to have my children happy and independent I'm not ready to give up those special parts of my job quite yet. I wish I could always be that patient and that I could have enjoyed every past sleepless moment as much--I'm afraid I was substantially less thrilled about an interrupted night's rest when the others were small.

I would have let her stay there for much longer but I was afraid she’d wake up Andrew so after fifteen minutes I whispered, “Are you ready to go back to bed?”

She whispered “yes” so I tucked her in her bed and went back to my own but I couldn’t sleep—I almost hoped she’d wake up again but she didn't.

Some day I’m going to be seventy and gray and I’m going to miss this part of my life.

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53 comments:

Motherhood for Dummies said...

WOW FIRST! heck yea!

Lillian is just sooo sweet. How can she melt our hearts soooo quickly?

Shannon said...

What a precious post. I could relate to just about everything. My youngest is going off to kindergarten this fall and I already miss it all ( : I'm not someone who cries easily, but I went shopping alone for a baby shower gift recently, and found myself misty-eyed on the drive home. It's all so bittersweet to me.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I, too, love those quiet still moments, when one child needs me and there are no distractions to keep me from giving them my all.

Anonymous said...

What a sweet post! Made my eyes water! Have you heard the country song, 'You're Gonna Miss This' by Trace Adkins. It talks about the crazy toddler years (among other things)and how one day they'll be missed. It makes me cry every time I hear it. (mine are 17 and 18-in the navy) Gen-IL Homesteader

Fawn said...

Truly a touching post. I can really relate to your words this week, even though my girl is only 2 and is just starting her toddler years.

Because of her medical issues, this week we brought her to sleep in bed with us for the first time since she was an infant. Normally she can't sleep in bed with us because none of us is comfortable (including her). But on Tuesday night she snuggled into me, looked up at me trustingly, and shut her eyes. I was warmed inside and out by the heat of her little body.

The sweetness...

Pumpkin Pie said...

I completely relate to this post. My four year old did the same thing last night because of a bad dream. After I tucked her back in her bed I too laid wishing she'd come back so I could hold her close.

I really enjoyed reading your post.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Yes, I feel the same way, too.

Steph

Kacie said...

What a sweet post! As a child, I usually slept through the night, but I remember whenever there were scary thunderstorms or bad dreams, crawling into bed next to my mom. She always made things feel so much better!

I'm looking forward to the days when I can comfort my children. I won't have to wait too long!

Red said...

I love snuggling. My daughter did it until about the age of 10. I still miss it.

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

That was just beautiful, Michelle. It's hard to imagine an end to the days when our little ones will come to us in the middle of the night, but I know it will end someday. And I'll miss it too.

Carinne said...

Can we trade for a couple nights? Miles wakes up at 5am every single night. Not 4 or 6, but 5 - except last night when he woke up at 5 AND 6. I could use a little more patience at that time of night. Feel free to come over and spend the night. I'll let you get your fill over here.

Marketing Mama said...

Oh how sweet! What a touching story... I find myself loving up every minute with my kids these days.

Amber M. said...

Darling post. And a darling girl to boot.

I'm so glad to hear that other moms are at their limit from 5-7 pm. I have a girlfriend who calls it "the gangrene hours." I couldn't agree more.

From Dawn Till Rusk said...

You have so hit the nail on the head. You never think you are going to miss them climbing into your bed and lying like a starfish all night, but you so do!

Sheri said...

That was very sweet. I'm so relieved to see another mom admit to not being very patient. Sometimes I'll get to the end of the day and think, did I just spend the whole day making them hurry up? I'm working on it too.

And with boys, I really love it when they have an emergency, it's so rare that they think they need mom now!

"Sunshine" said...

That was the most beautiful post ever!!!

calicobebop said...

What a touching post. I need to slow down and remember a few of those last moments before they're gone.

Damselfly said...

Ahhh. I agree. I actually look forward to Fly coming to our room in the middle of the night some night when he's scared. :) Definitely a perk of the job of motherhood.

Loralee Choate said...

I am not good in emergencies. I used to be but now I just...Panic. My husband is much better at it. (Sigh.)

It's something I've been trying to work at because I know that when I'm 70, I'll miss this time, too.

Michaele said...

It must have been one of those nights. My toddler woke up at one, crying, sobbing, growling even, "no owie, no owie, owieeeee" rubbing and scratching his legs. Growing pains- he was so loud I was worried he'd wake my husband and daughter- so a leg rub is what he got, me cuddled up in bed next to him.

Thank goodness we upgraded him to a twin bed last month.

Once his thumb went back into his mouth and eyes started to flutter, he told me "nigh nigh Mommy. Gub you."

Sigh.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

What a tender post, Michelle. Those sweet moments are fleeting, aren't they?

It reminds me of that quip, "The days are long but the years are short."

P.S. I'm going to link to this. So if your traffic shoots up by 10 people, you'll know what happened.

Erica Douglas said...

Sometimes I feel that no matter how much I try to savour the moment(s) it's inevitable that I'll look back and wish that I'd had 'just one more cuddle' :(

perilloparodies said...

that is totally a memory to tuck away in the "remember for later" portion of the brain. how sweet! mommyhood is not convenient alot of the time, but it sure keeps life full and interesting, and, oftentimes, very sweet in loving and being loved.I am at my last child (he is only 7 months old) and I am already getting weepy when a milestone passes and i think that i will never have another pass by for myself again. :-( like catching that first smile, the fresh sweet baby smell, cutesy little things to wear, long naps, etc... on and on and on...sigh)

Sucharita Sarkar said...

I love hugging my kids and getting right back. My younger daughter sleeps beside me (It's an Indian thing) and I love to hold her tight when she half-wakes up after a bad dream.

Melissa-Mc said...

Isn't motherhood glorious? Knowing that we are done, I can't believe that I miss being pregnant, going into labor and having my milk come in.

thediaperdiaries said...

You'll be like that old woman in that creepy "I'll Love You Forever" book (no offense to anyone who loves that book) crawling into your kid's bedrooms for a snuggle.

There is nothing more precious as a mom than a child who really needs you in the night.

Patti said...

You absolutely will miss these days...and it won't take until 70 either. I'm 45...my "kid" are 22 and 17, and I've been missing those days for quite awhile already.

So cherish them while they last!

Tara said...

that was beautiful. it brought tears to my eyes.

Stephanie said...

So true! I have that same thought almost every day - someday I'm going to miss these hugs and snuggles, the constant neediness, the begging for me to "play" all throughout the day. I want to treasure all of it.

Wild Squirrel said...

Well said. I was just realizing on Monday of this week that it was going to be my last devoted time to our youngest--the older three are finishing up school this week and will be home all summer with us, and the youngest starts school with them in the fall. When the realization of our limited one-on-one time together hit me, I spontaneously threw together a picnic and we made the most of it all day together at a local park...something I wish we had done more often.

nellbe said...

What a beautiful post! My son is 3 and he is a brilliant sleeper and always has been and it is one of the best feelings in the world to be able to give them a mummy hug during the night to make things all better.

Thank you for sharing :)

April said...

so heartwarming....wonderful post

planetnomad said...

You will miss it long before 70. My youngest are 11 now and I miss them being smaller already.

I loved this post.

Gill said...

I can SO relate to this post. It's exactly this kind of moment that has made me occasionally question the decision to only have 2 children.

Great post!

Sonja said...

Beautiful. You've tapped the mother chord, and it's a powerful one. It's funny, this 31 year old mother still remembers going into her mothers arms after a terrifying dream. And so it goes..

MRMacrum said...

If you are like me and my wife, you won't have to wait until you are seventy to miss these moments.

Excellent post Ms. Michelle. Top notch.

All Rileyed Up said...

Beautiful post. I love that feeling of my kids snuggling against me.

Tami said...

This is me right now. Our 3 year old has begun a habit, over the last month, of crawling into bed with us at night. I am enjoying it since I know he won't do this forever. I love holding his warm body against me and having him fall asleep.

Lisa said...

Very sweet. I feel exactly the same way. My youngest is 11 and it is so sad to me that I won't be needed in the same way when they were young.

Flea said...

I miss it already. It's been about two and a half years since my youngest has awakened me in the middle of the night - he's about to turn eleven - and I miss it. I slowly weaned him of the need to waken me starting about age five. It's such a sweet thing.

luckyzmom said...

Absolutely! Someday you will miss this part of your life, especially when you read something like you wrote. It will bring you tears of longing as it has me.

Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.

hotomom said...

I can't tell you how many times I have felt this way lately. Their childhood moments are fleeting and I hope and pray my two will have good memories and I hope that I always remember these little things.

Rev. Sonja said...

My baby is 16 and I am dreading the day she leaves for college. Enjoy all those little moments. Mine haven't woken up in the middle of the night for years...well, that is not for me, maybe to text message someone! I loved this post.

Ayda Sue said...

i'm such a sap... this touching post brought a tear to my eye :) thank you for such a lovely post.

chelle said...

awww What a beautiful moment. How fortunate that you were able to capture it so well with words and cherish it forever.

Jane Hamilton said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. I hope I can be this patient and loving when My Debbie needs me.

Alice Wills Gold said...

Your writing must be stupendous...you made me miss this already, and I am sure I still have a few nights like this to go.

CountessLaurie said...

Thanks for sharing. I am in the throes of it, but I know I will miss it.

Cuddle Cottage said...

Ah, so sweet! There's nothing like being a mum!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Finally catching up with you over here and must stop due to the tears now....

The girls have been waking up every night with fears due to the new house. It has been driving me batty and patience has not been my virtue.

A lovely reminder...it will end, perhaps I'll miss it. I need some of your emergency overdrive. Maybe an 8:00 bedtime for mom will help ;)

Gonna look at it differently tonight. Funny, but I just posted about missing these moments (not the middle of the night ones) with the song that Homesteader mentioned. Have to remember my own post at 2 AM...

ariel said...

I used to cry out for my mom at night, "MOMMY!!" I was afraid of the dark, so actually getting up and going to her was scary. I would see HUGE spiders and ants crawling all over the ceiling when it was dark. I have vivid memories of these imaginings. If I couldn't wake her up I'd crawl into her bed. Man I was such a selfish child! lol

Amber (Bringing Good Home) said...

Sniff. Sniff. ....

BAWL!!!!!

My little babies are growing up as well.. I was looking at pictures yesterday, comparing pictures from their ballet recital last year, and their recital this year. I realized how much they've grown in the last year. They're supposed to, and it's a good thing.. but it's bittersweet just the same.

Daniel cruise said...

so, what is your main point!!!