It’s my favorite part of the day.
I sneak in to my oldest son’s room to “check” on him. He is fine, of course, and that is not why I am there. I tuck his blankets back around him and smile at how much younger he looks when he sleeps. Some nights, his legs flail off the bed and his well-loved stuffed monkey stares up at me from his arms, agreeing to take the night shift with him. Other nights, his knees are tucked under his chest, his bum high in the air, just as he did when he was a baby. My youngest is a light sleeper, one who wakes at even the thought of someone dropping a hat and so instead, I stand at the door, listening for his breath.
They are quiet, still and peaceful, and so unlike their wild daytime personas. These are the moments I cherish and hold dear, the soft sweet ones that come at night.
Because they are not all like that.
It is tempting to think, as I stare at them sleeping, “this is what makes it all worthwhile.” But the moments of parenthood do not subscribe to a particular formula, a summation of the good moments less the difficult ones, multiplied by the number of children divided by the hardships, the numbers crunching until you arrive at a baby softly snoring in his sleep.
You live them all. The ones where you fret over their safe arrival, the ones where they wrench from your body. The ones in the middle of the night where you cry over a not-sleeping baby who refuses to do so and you wonder if you can last another moment like this. The ones where you stare at your body and wonder if you will ever find who you once were in there. There are moments when you are surrounded by screams for food, hugs, and clean diapers, screams more dramatic than the situation warrants and you simply wish you could add your own to the chorus. There are the days when you realize you haven’t cleaned your shower in three months and others when you start looking at airplane tickets to Tahiti. There are moments the boredom of folding, wiping, singing, reading, picking up, putting down, changing, weighs down heavy on you and in the long stretches of loneliness you wonder, “was this the right choice?”
These moments, as I am led to suspect by every elderly woman in the grocery store who has reminded me to cherish them, are the ones that slip from our memory, a few fading every time our children outgrow another pair of shoes. They fade, and we cherish the sweet ones. Sticky kisses and outrageous giggles, pancake breakfasts long walks on Sunday evenings, first smiles and first steps, unsolicited hugs and morning cuddles are what earn the rightful spot in the forefront of our memory.
Nonetheless, you live them all. The good do not cancel out the bad, and instead work together to carve into your heart the heavy beauty of parenting. But in the quiet moments of the night you can rest easy in the goodness of a sleeping child, however fleeting it may be.