I told my kids I was going to bed a few hours ago, and I did, I swear. I was up early and it was time for my body to rest. They tried to make me stay awake, but I needed to lay down.
Times like this make me so glad that I know I can just go to bed instead of forcing myself to stay awake while tending to the house or the kids. I can not imagine what it would have felt like to stay awake and try to be nice while reading bedtime stories or otherwise ignoring my body’s needs.
We live in a very old house and unless it’s locked, my bedroom door pops open spontaneously. The light and noise rush in and I lay there patiently. If I get up, they’ll see that I’m “awake” and have something important to tell me. If the light or noise bothers me, I can throw a blanket over the top half of my head. Without me having to ask, eventually one of the kids will come shut the door for me. Sometimes they’ll tell eachother go do it. Someone else always volunteers if they disagree. But I know that eventually someone will come and slam the door shut. It won’t shut at all if it isn’t slammed.
So I’m not catching any deep REM sleep, but it feels good to “check out” even though I can still hear their little-voice conversations and I love that they’re “taking care of me” by shutting the door and yelling at each other periodically to “Be quiet, Moms sleeping.”
After a little while, Evie comes. she had to open the door to get in (which is just as loud as closing it) and she makes her way across the room slowly in the dark. I assumed she was coming up to snuggle with me. I play sleep and I feel her little self climb over me. Instead of cozying into my side, she climbs over me again. Maybe she wants to snuggle with the other side of me. Instead, I can feel that she’s hanging off the bed and her little puckered mouth is pecking at my face to give me a kiss. My heart melted and I “woke up” enough to say “Goodnight sweetie, I love you.”
She shuffled out and slammed the door shut behind her. I snuggle in, listening to the girls playing outside the door, thinking I’m the luckiest mom in the world. But I’m laying on something weird. I realize Evie has tucked a Teddy bear under the blanket with me. My heart melts again. So that’s why she climbed over me.
There was a time- thankfully many years ago- when I would have barked at her to “shut my door” before she even came in. I might have said “What are you doing in here, I’m trying to sleep” or “You can snuggle with me, but don’t talk or play” and there was a time when I wouldn’t even have bothered trying to go to bed because the kids were awake. I would have ignored what MY body needed because of some self-righteous belief that they would drown, choke, burn down the house or kill one another without my conscious presence.
I’m so glad for all the different “ways of being” that we’ve experienced as a family. I know it’s hard for my teenagers sometimes, having witnessed our early days as a more rigidly-disciplined family and wondered why the littler kids have “such a better life” than they did. I hope what they learn is that people can and do change, we each manage our own experience and that when we make sure our own needs are met, we can allow for magic little moments like getting “tucked in” by a 3 yr old.
The “added bonus” here is that one long day didn’t snowball into an entire week of sleep troubles. Years ago, I stumbled around constantly tired thinking that “this is life” because I’m a mom. But that doesn’t have to be true. YES- there were messes to clean up the next day, as a result of leaving them “unattended.” But there would have been messes anyway. Taking care of myself is the best way to make sure I have the energy it takes to clean them up and the mental resources to participate in the constant chatter of conversations that little girls require. Years ago, I would have felt guilty for going to bed at such an early hour. I would have guzzled a pot of coffee or even an energy drink to fight it off. Today, I just go to bed. I hope when Evie grows up she never feels guilty for making sure her own needs are met.