We've had a hard time getting to bed at a decent time since the night shift started. Not that we've ever been an 8:30 or even a 9:00 to bed kind of family. I'm raising a brood of night owls. But it's been especially bad now that Daddy only has one night off a week. We've been letting the kids stay up as late as they can on his night off. It's that or don't see him for more than 10 minutes a day for several months. They all need the time together, so we're doing it. The reality of that though, is that bedtime can be midnight, 1:00, or even 2:00 AM.
When the kids are up so late, getting up the next day can be a challenge. This week Daddy had a change in schedule and had both weekend nights off. Two late nights in a row! Big E didn't get out of bed until almost noon on both Monday and Tuesday of this week. The other boys weren't much earlier. Baby Girl has been getting herself up early to meet her daddy when he comes home. They play catch when the weather allows and cards when it doesn't. So she's almost always the first one to fall asleep at night.
Anyway, last night, even though this momma was exhausted and ready to drop by 8:15, all three boys were still awake and wired at 10:00. I sent them to bed, prayed with them, kissed and hugged them and turned the lights out. Then the chaos started.
"Mom! Can I sleep with you? Please, please, please, please!" (Only there were about three million more "pleases" in there. I'm always amazed at how many times they can repeat themselves before I even have a chance to respond.)
"NO. Go back to bed." (Again, multiply by about a gillion.)
"But, Mom, I see bad things whenever I close my eyes."
We pray. We sing the song from The Sound of Music. We giggle. He refuses to go back to bed alone.
Ten minutes into this, I pull my five year old onto my lap, determined to defeat this problem with hugging rather than yelling. That's when I notice the funky smell coming from him. Ten PM or not, it was off to the tub for him. Lucky for me, he can shower, soap and shampoo himself (at least in theory).
Five minutes later, while EZ is still in the tub, my oldest shouts out from the bedroom, "MOM! AJ is in the closet and he's putting poop on everything!" Yep. My three year old, who despite my daily desperate pleas to go in the potty, is still in a diaper. Apparently, after digging the doo out of his diaper, he hid in the closet. He then proceeded to smear it on the walls, the clothes, the hanging rack and of course, himself.
As EZ is getting out of the tub, I shout, "Don't let the water out, your brother is coming in!" Then I wrangle him into the tub, get out the Clorox wipes and detox the closet. Big E helps me by taking the now dirty clothes to the laundry, because the dog has decided they now smell appealing. While getting AJ soaped up, EZ comes in to hang up his towel. I smell him. Still has a serious funk! "Did you use soap?" Grin. "Get back in there!" I soap him up, too, then yank them both from the tub.
Both beg to sleep in my bed and weary, I give in. I sit down at the computer to decompress a little and vent at little to my dear friend, Rachael. She encourages me and assures me that if she lived closer (she's about 40 minutes away) that I could send my kids over. I love her for it. I thank God for good friends and for the things He has recently done in my life. He's renewed my hope and brought me to an amazing group of women with whom I am sharing this journey called motherhood. I take a deep breath and think to myself, "I can do this!"
Then I hear screams from my youngest. EZ comes marching in with my Kindle, saying, "I took this away from AJ because he's not supposed to have it." Apparently, my three year old was trying to get in some Bad Piggies before bed. Distraught, he follows his brother to me. "EZ lied to me!" he wails. This is not accurate, but in his mind, it means that his brother said something that hurt his feelings.
Again, wanting to win with love and comfort, rather than ranting and raving, I quietly send EZ back to (my) bed and pull AJ up onto my lap. I can see that he's exhausted. It's written so heavily in his eyes. So I hold him like the baby he is and sing "Hush Little Baby." For 10 rounds, every time I get to "Momma's gonna love you anyway" he opens his eyes and says, "Sing it again, Momma." So I do. And then, because I can't take that same song anymore, I change to "How Great is our God." Suddenly, this little poop monster in my arms is transformed into the glorious gift that he has always been. The simple words of the song remind me that God has given me these children for a reason. That I am their first glimpse of the love God has for them. That the Great God, Creator of the Universe, knit this baby together in my womb and gave him to me. And tears began to flow. And I hold my baby and sing the chorus of that song for a long, long time.
So long in fact, that EZ keeps interrupting, from my room, with, "Mom, when are you coming in here?" Finally confident that AJ is good and asleep, I carefully lay him in his bed, then go to join EZ. And then I lay there in the dark, his little five year old head snuggled on my chest and sing 2 Timothy 1:7 to him. "God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of sound mind." He joins me and together we must have sung it 15 times. In minutes, he has peacefully fallen off to sleep, the nightmares chased from his dreams.
I know my oldest is still awake and having a hard time going to sleep. I'd like to tell you that I hauled my sleepy butt out of bed and went to sing to him, but that would be a lie. I want to, I really do, but I just can't make my legs work. So I go to sleep, content in the knowledge that I had kissed all of my babies that night, and shepherded two of them off to dreamland in my arms.
This morning when I woke up, I was still exhausted. My bed was full. Both little boys were there, their Daddy had made it home from work and was snuggled in between them. At some point, their oldest brother had joined us as well. So there we were, five across in a king size bed. No wonder I'm still tired.
My baby just tracked mud from the back door all the way to his bedroom. My kitchen table is piled high with picture frames I took off the walls when I painted the living room two days ago. We ate out last night and probably will again tonight because I'm just too tired to cook. We'll eat it off the floor because the table is such a mess. Don't judge me.
But I know this: It's going to be okay. This is my life and it is good. I know that I am doing what God has called me to do. It is not always easy and it often feels like I'm swimming upstream. But it is worth it. Those moments when my baby looks up at me, completely trusting, completely secure in my arms, and says to me, "Sing it again, Momma," those moments, they are worth it.