I can remember the early days of motherhood so clearly. The joy, the awe, the overwhelming love and sheer exhaustion. The adrenaline that always seemed to kick in at just the right moment, whether it was a 3am feeding or a long afternoon after a night of zero sleep. The gratitude and relief that came with four, even three hours of uninterrupted rest. The indescribable wonder of looking into your baby’s eyes.
Those feelings are still there when I look at my children today, almost seven years later. They may be walking, talking humans with huge personalities and (many!!) strong preferences and opinions, but when I look at them, they’re still my tiny babies. They are, as it’s been put so well before, my heart walking outside of my body. The powerful love and amazement remains, though the sleepless nights are mostly behind us.
Because sometimes, even school-aged children like to mess with your sleep. Mine do, at least, between illnesses and nightmares and the odd night terror leftover from their toddler days. I sometimes wake with a five year old sprawled across my pillow, or a six year old curled up against my spine. Both are prone to wiggling, kicking and generally preventing sleep in every way possible. Sometimes, as one climbs in between my husband and me in the middle of the night, they will sleepily complain that they don’t have enough space. No kidding, I mumble. It’s a two person bed. You’re like, three feet tall. How are you taking up so much room? Occasionally – usually when an illness has hit our household – they’re both there, taking up so much real estate that an adult has to retreat to one of the abandoned twin-sized beds down the hall.
My children are sleep disrupters of a professional status. They are exceptional at making me very, very tired. But both are also snuggly, warm little embodiments of love who want nothing more than to feel safe and cozy until the morning. As much as they kick, they cuddle; as much as they breathe hot gross germs onto my face, they whisper sweet words and hold my hand. They are interruptions of the best possible kind.
They are everything I’ve ever wanted.
Every once and a while, my kids go through a solid period of amazing sleep. They don’t have nightmares, they get themselves to and from the washroom for that 2am pee, they stay in their own rooms and even sleep in. It’s incredible. The feeling you get when you’re well-rested is unparalleled after years of constant fatigue. I should be thrilled when this happens, and I am.
But after a few weeks of this I begin to worry, quietly, in the back of my mind. Are the kids done climbing into bed with us in the middle of the night? What if they stop wanting those post-bad dream cuddles? What if the last time they crawled into bed with us was the LAST TIME they crawl into bed with us? No matter how tired I am, my heart breaks at the thought that one day, they’ll have a bad dream and decide that they don’t need me to comfort them. One day, all of this will just stop. I see it on the horizon and instead of relieved, I feel sad. My babies won’t be babies forever, I know – but tell that to any parent and it will hit them in the gut.
As much as I don’t want to wake up to my eventually-teenaged children in bed with us, I can’t fathom a world where my kids don’t call my name when they’re scared. It’s a strange dichotomy when your goal is to raise confident, independent human beings and yet, the thought of them leaving your arms is devastating. Try to do it yourself, I tell them time and time again. You can do this yourself. Just try. And then they do it themselves, and my pride is laced with longing for the days when I did it all.
They’ll grow up with me cheering them on every step of the way but no matter what, they’ll always be my babies. I will always want to wrap my arms around them and tell them I’m there.
And even though they won’t need the comfort of my presence forever, I’ll never stop listening for their calls in the night.