“Mommy, will you lay with me?”
I looked at the clock and rolled my eyes. It was already 9:30 p.m., and it was the last thing I wanted to do. I was tired. I wanted to finish watching a show with my husband whom I’d barely seen all week. My head was throbbing, and I was over the kids after a long work and school week.
I looked back at her. “Why are you up? Do your meditation app, and I’ll come see you in a few minutes.”
“Please, Mama,” she begged. “You haven’t laid with me forever.”
I stared at her pleading eyes, dark circles, and pale face and realized she was probably feeling like I was. She was mentally and physically exhausted and overtired. And she was right, I hadn’t lain with her at night at all recently because she never asked. She’s 8 years old, closer to 9 now, and struggling this year at school. Her tantrums have been off the charts, so we’ve been using bedtime as a way to cool down and let her devour her beloved chapter books. Plus she likes her freedom at night — allowing her a bit of independence to do what she wants before bed.
I, of course, always lie with her little sister, still just 5 years old and super-cuddly as she’s learning to read each night. I sing her favorite songs as I once did to her older sister, and we pray.
But rarely do I read with our oldest anymore. We don’t have pillow talk because I simply thought she outgrew it. You know that time when you hear the real scoop about their lives — what she did at recess, what boy sat with her at lunch, singing “Happy Birthday” to the principal, her fears and struggles. But apparently, I was wrong, and she still needs that time. So I begrudgingly went to her room.
I crawled into her bed which can barely hold both of us now, and she curled right into me, holding me tight just like when she was a toddler. I smelled her new peppermint shampoo, replaced from her old baby wash. I soaked in her love and felt her relax, the tension from the day dissolving in our embrace.
We listened to her meditation app, and her breathing slowed. Her body grew heavier, and within minutes, she fell asleep.
As I stayed and held her for a few more minutes, I realized that in a couple years she probably won’t ask me to lie down with her anymore. She’s already stopped holding my hand when we cross the street. And she doesn’t run to me after school anymore with that big, happy grin, now aware of what her friends may think.
But on this night, this was all that mattered. These little moments aren’t just little things. They are the big things that remind and teach us what’s really important. Not the dishes, or email, or some irrelevant message on my phone or social media.
Just her. Just us. Just now. Because this is all we have.
Motherhood is a constant pull of our needs versus our children’s. Time for work or time for your spouse? Chores or playtime? Exercise or Netflix? It’s a never-ending struggle of how and where to spend our precious time and who deserves it more than us.
But on this night I gave it to her, which is exactly what I needed too.