After a weekend of physical challenges and a myriad of tasks to be completed, my body was aching for rest this afternoon. After the merry-go-round of the day's afternoon activities and fueling of children, my older boys completed homework and showered and while they did their thing, I ran to get a shower myself, relieving my aching body of the day's stresses and junk.
I put on my oldest most favorite pair of way-too-big, but oh-so-comfy pajamas. I have had these pj's for over 10 years. I bought them on clearance and wore them through each of my three pregnancies. I dug them out Saturday night, after running 9 miles that morning, running all kinds of errands with the three boys, attending Mass, and braving the Saturday night dinner crowd.
I was beat.
I needed an old friend.
This evening, it seemed as though the day had gotten the better of me. I was drained after a long day at work. I had practice for our school's Hispanic Heritage Show, in which the teachers will be performing a semi-traditional Flamenco dance routine. I ran to get Joshua, get milk, get the older boys to their tennis pizza party and awards ceremony.
The comfort of the scalding shower and comfy pj's beckoned me to do something I had not done in a long time. I laid in Joshua's twin bed with him. My littlest boy wrapped his arms around me, his still small hand on the back of my neck, as if to soothe me, his fingers tangled in my long, dark hair. He stroked my hair and I felt his breathing relax, his eyes starting to get heavy with sleep.
My heart ached to know that he is my youngest. That there will be no more sons borne of this woman. No more babes to feed with my body, to nestle and soothe when they are fitful. No new babies to run with arms outstretched, smile as welcoming as those arms, to make me forget about the troubles of my day, to fill my heart with joy. As I rubbed his wavy haired head, I shut my eyes, trying to engrave this moment in my heart and mind, so that I may bring it back when this boy no longer fits in this bed, when he no longer depends on me as much as he does now.
I glanced over to Andrew, laying in his bed, feeling left out, as I imagined he might be. I quietly crept from Joshua's bed and awkwardly folded myself into my middle son's bed. As I held him in my arms, he lay quietly, his big brown eyes searching mine. My boy, who sleeps haphazardly, who fails to catch slumber for an entire night, who has inherited the bitter enemy of insomnia that haunts his mother. I looked at my son, trying to memorize his face. To recall what his face looked like four years ago, seven years ago, when he was a tiny, hungry babe at my breast; same large brown eyes searching mine, understanding me, knowing me. As I stroked his smooth cheek, I admired that beautiful olive skin. A face unobstructed from creases and lines: evidence of worry and sorrow. I wondered, as sleep overtook him, if he will remember this night, when his tired mother crawled into bed with him, invited sleep into bed with us, and let him have his fill of rest. I wondered what he will remember most of these busy days, often filled with mundane chores and uneventful tasks.
And now, I wait for my oldest. As he showers and prepares for bed, he is the one slipping away from childhood so quickly.
Next week, he will be ten.
Last night, I found a picture of him, when he was six months old. My eyes filled with tears, remembering that chubby miracle. His round face, his bright cheeks and smile. The dimple on his cheek that always reminds me of bright sunny days. As I hold him in his bed, his arms and legs are too large, too lanky for me to envelope like his youngest brother. It reminds me of how quickly time is passing through our lives now, how little time I have to hold on to him in this way. My heart is full to know that he still smiles and enjoys these moments, but, I wonder, for how much longer.
It is hard to be a mother. We give birth to our own hearts, tend to their care and growth as we would a precious garden. We weed, we nurture, we water, we hope. And then, we must harvest. We must part. We pray that all we have done will be good enough.
I am not ready yet. I know that they are growing. I know that it is difficult. There are days when I could walk out and not look back. There are many more days when the ache of this mother's heart is too much. When I know that the work being done is good, regardless of the weeds that threaten.
I want to hold on to these moments forever. Freeze them into photographs in my heart. Keep them, just as they are now.
Faces smooth from worry and sadness.
Under my roof.
Warm and safe in their beds.
A hop away from my own bed.