Mommy! Mom? Mommy? MOOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYYYY!
You know the scene. You JUST sat down, FINALLY. You’ve got a glass of wine in one hand, chocolates in the other. What. the. fuuuuuuuuuck does she need?! But you know what she needs, since you’ve been here before, every night in fact, for the past eleventy billion nights. Another glass of water. More snuggles. Blanket readjustment. For you to pick up her stuffed sloth that fell under the bed. To tell you she heard a noise. Or saw a shadow. Or has a booger.
Who the hell knows. You sit there, wondering if she’ll just fall asleep. Wondering if you really actually have to go up there.
WHAT?! You shout-whisper from the bottom of the stairs, or at the end of the hall, as her brothers are asleep and if she wakes up the little one there will be hell to pay. You think that maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance you can address her need(s) without having to actually move and pause Chopped or Fixer Upper or Friends or whatever other grown-up show you’re watching.
You’re wrong, of course. So you stop your precious adult time that you’ve longed for since that first sip of coffee you tasted while watching Thomas the Train at 5:30 a.m. You dig deep and find the very last drop of patience you have, and head upstairs. Again.
Can you read me one more story? She asks, holding a book and pointing to the tiny 3-inch square space left for you in her bed that is not covered with stuffed animals and dolls.
Sure. I… um… just need to… in a little bit, you respond.
But you don’t come back. Not tonight. Not if you’re me anyway.
Now before all the Sally Sanctimommies come at me with pitchforks, let me say that I do the bedtime “extras.” A LOT. I do the reading of books and the prayers and “how was your day” talk and “what was your favorite part of school today” and all the “I love yous” I can muster. I do lots and lots of snuggling and give lots of goodnight-kisses.
But some nights I don’t. Some nights there is just nothing left in my motherhood cup.
Some nights it’s 8:46 and I’ve been on call for damn-near 16 hours. 16 hours straight of Mommy can you wipe me… and Mommy can you play with me and Mommy I’m hungry and Mommy poop fell out of my butt and it’s on the floor and Mommy she stole the last Skittle and Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy…
Some nights Mommy is all done. Some nights she has zero fucks left to give. And one more bedtime request is just too much.
Because on those nights, when that sweet little girl asks for one more thing (whether it’s another glass of water or another book or another snuggle), she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t understand that for the last two hours, you said “please eat your dinner” and “please stop falling off of your chair” and “yes, you need to eat at least once carrot” and “we don’t slap each other’s butts at the table”… and then you washed the hair of a small human who writhed in pain and spit fire at you as shampoo clearly is a form of torture and then wrestled him into pajama bottoms as he tried wriggling away in a 10-minute long game of pretending to be a slippery eel.
You re-brushed the gnashing teeth of children who only chew on their toothbrushes because you’re terrified of what the dentist is going to say next week and begged them to go potty before getting into bed even though they “don’t have to go” but you know they will have to go in 10 minutes.
You read Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You Hear for the 987th time because that is the only book her brother will sit through and his preschool teacher gave you a stern lecture last week about making sure he is “reading” every day. And that the 14 minutes you spent looking for her pink kitty (no, not that pink kitty Mommy, the other pink kitty) because she cannot possibly sleep without him nearly made you burn all the kitties and doggies and bunnies in the entire house in a giant cathartic bonfire of glory.
There has been not one single 5-minute break since before dawn where someone didn’t need a snack or a drink or a referee or a playmate or a wiping of some sort. That bedtime request for one more thing comes without knowing that by 8:46 p.m., if one more child needs this exhausted mommy to cover an exposed toe with a blanket or get one more tiny cup of water for a child who pees the bed in his sleep 50% of the time, her head may actually explode.
Which is why to her, asking for one more thing at bedtime is a regular, normal request. But to her mother, who is at the very end of her rope, it’s an impossibility.
There is just only so much we have to give in one 24-hour period. It’s like we start the day (which is sometimes the middle of the freaking night) with a cup full of patience and mothering and energy. And we take scoops out of that cup all day long. Rarely do we refill it (unless some miracle happens like they nap simultaneously or Grandma picks them up for a couple hours or your spouse surprises you by bringing home takeout). Most days, though, we drain that cup all day long, and by nightfall, we are down to the last few sips. Can we make it until they are all asleep and have no more needs from us?
Most nights, yes we can. But not always.
Some nights that damn cup is bone dry. And so we stand at the bottom of the stairs and say, Okay. I’ll be there soon, knowing we probably won’t. Hoping that we don’t need to. And praying to St. Bedtime, the patron saint of For the Love of God Go the Fuck to Sleep that they will just fall asleep.
And we creep back to the couch, press play, and take a long, deep breath.
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