Worry creeps in as you look at the clock. The counting begins. “If I get her down in the next half hour, I can get to sleep by midnight and end up with six hours of shut eye.”
Hovering over your newborn’s cradle, you lower her tiny body down to the mattress. She stays asleep. You dare not draw breath. This is the umpteenth time you’ve tried to put her to bed tonight. She’s going to stay asleep this time. You are willing it to happen.
Tiptoe feet bring you to the master bathroom where you begin to brush your teeth, looking adoringly at your pillow simultaneously. You may be a tired new mama, but you haven’t lost your peripheral vision. As your cool cotton sheets, the cucumber colored ones you got on sale at Kmart back when they used to sell the Martha Stuart line, settle down around your tired body, you are almost already asleep.
The crackles on the baby monitor space out a bit. You hope against hope that you didn’t just hear your baby girl draw breath and then gurgle. Clamping your eyes shut and turning down the volume on the monitor, you pray it was just your imagination. It wasn’t, and before long your sweet pumpkin is wailing. Like it or not, it’s not your bedtime, Mama.
And you wonder to yourself, “Will it ever end?”
After darting from one bathroom to the next, hoping to find the commode with the smallest number of your children nearby to it, you find the hallway bathroom to be empty, not a soul around. Half of your children are watching Barney while the others are drawing with colored pencils, hopefully still only on paper. This is it. Your chance to use the toilet. Alone.
Popping in to the bathroom, hurrying a bit just in case, you switch on the light and start to pull the door shut behind you. But there’s a little resistance. The door seems to be stuck on something. You tug a bit more, but the door won’t come. Then you see them.
Pudgy, round fingers hold onto the door. A small voice from the other side of the door asks, “What are you doing, Mommy?” You made it to the bathroom alone today, but you couldn’t so much as close the door before the bloodhounds found you. You simply want to excrete in peace, but instead you are constantly bombarded by bathroom invaders.
“Will it ever end?”
It is bedtime for your brood, but not if they have anything to say about it. For the last hour and a half, you bathed them, brushed their hair, clipped their nails, lotioned their legs, diapered their bottoms and jammied their little bodies. They are perfectly ready for bed. And you cannot wait.
They, however, can. Once all the bedtime songs are sung and the lights are all out, things seem to be only just beginning. First, it’s “jus’ one more kiss.” You can’t say no to that, now can you? Then, “I’m firsty.” You point out where the cup of water is, reminding your son that it’s in the exact same place within reach on his bedside table as it’s been for years. No sooner can you exit firsty child’s room before his brother is having trouble locating his blanket and needs help. Then it’s, “I can’t fall asleep,” “I’m scared,” “Will you sing me another song?” “My legs don’t work,” and “Can I get up yet?”
“No, darling. Not until morning.” If your children don’t go to sleep soon, you may as well just get them up and feed them breakfast. You can’t help but wonder, “Will it ever end?”
The moon goes ’round the earth, the earth goes ’round the sun. Summer, fall, winter, spring.
Your daughter’s high school graduation open house is over. Her ceremony is on Saturday. Your minivan is packed to the hilt with her college stuff. She’s moving in early because she got a job on campus. That night as she is out for pizza late with her friends, you vacuum her bedroom and pack up a few sundry things for her in the extra boxes still leaning against her wall. A love letter from her boyfriend covers an old cassette player. Pushing play, you discover an old tape she must have made when she was about four is in the player. “Mommy!? Can I play wiff this?” Her tiny voice sings out, followed by made up tunes, poems and silly talk.
“Will it ever end?” Yes. It is starting to.
Your firstborn son lives far away now, with his beautiful wife. You couldn’t be more thrilled to have a grandbaby, though seeing the little guy more often would be wonderful. He has grown into a fine man, your oldest son has. His brother has, too. You are proud of them. So proud. Reaching this new level in your life has brought so much joy. You have long since painted over the fingerprints in your stairwell. And, oddly, you miss them as you remember the joy that was in that season as well. At Christmastime when your children are home, it isn’t until the last day of their visit that you stand in the kitchen and hear running, realizing they still sound like a herd of elephants, pounding down the stairs. Bigger elephants now but elephants just the same.
Years ago, you would have banged your head on the kitchen counter, asking, “Will it ever end?” when you heard them run down the stairs loudly, waking the baby. Again. But now, you don’t ask yourself that question anymore. Your children have chased their children out the door and are buckling them into carseats, freshly opened Christmas gifts smooshed into the cracks around them. The clamor, dirty fingers, sleepless nights, endless bathroom interruptions and banging on the stairs exit the door with your family, gone like a spring breeze between the curtains.
“Will it ever end?” Yes, friends. It will end. And we will miss it when it does. So as much as we can as meager human mothers, let’s savor it until it then.