Anthea’s bedtime routine is pretty set. Each night, it is the same. Sometimes I worry that it revolves too much around me. But, without fail, I enjoy the quiet moments I spend with her at the end of our day.
We bathe the girls at 7:30. Sometimes, it’s a struggle to get them to get out of the tub, with Rosie requesting “big water” out of the faucet, and Anthea splashing up a storm, her fist balled around a bathtime Thomas the Tank Engine. And sometimes they are just ticked off at having their hair washed and it’s a pretty quick affair.
Then, I take Anthea to her room, and she smells all fresh and her hair dries fluffy and curly in a minute flat. She sits on my lap and I read to her. She loves books lately. Whereas it seems not long ago, she’d just grab and try to eat the books, she now enjoys reading. Especially “Pat the Bunny,” “Good Night Gorilla,” “Blue Hat, Green Hat,” a bunch of Mickey Mouse books from the 70s, and this one gem called, “Fruit.”
Then I zip her in her sleepsack. I can usually tell how tired she is by how much wiggling she does as I do the snaps at the top. I turn out the lights and turn on her sound machine to the rain selection (a Seattle baby from day one, no?). She snuggles up with her bunny lovey in my arms in the rocking chair to nurse.
At some point, I stand up and hold her vertically while I walk around in the dark and sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” These are the best few moments. She lays fully against me, her head pressed into me like the relaxed newborn I remember so well. And when we sit back down and she’s reclined again, she claps and says “Yaaay!” It’s always nice to know my vocal talents are appreciated.
And she melts off to sleep or almost to sleep, rocking and nursing to her heart’s content. I always recall how she used to fit in so much less space. There near my heart, as usual, but now staggeringly long and changed.
I never sleep as soundly as I did in the days before I had kids. I check on them periodically at night. Every single night. To hear them breathing and kiss their heads one last time. And readjust the blankets and relocate some stuffed toys, and watch their chests rise. When does that stop? My guess is never. I remember my mother telling me once that when I was in high school, even though she was busy, she would drive by sometimes just to glance at my car in the parking lot. And if this sounded a little crazy to me as a teenager, it is now such a sweet truth. This power my children have over me astonishes and breaks and holds me in this sway.
And once everyone is out, and I do sleep, I dream in quick snapshots. Heads on chests, warmth in the dark, the stories I’ve read a thousand times on repeat, Jamberry and whatever moment was splendid today; cars in parking lots, and those little baby hands. Where are they going, I wonder. Let me witness.