Bedtime is parenthood distilled. Those minutes in dusky bedrooms contain the essence of all that is conflicted and painful and extraordinarily beautiful about this season of my life. Grace and Whit are often at their softest, their most thoughtful, loving, and receptive, as they say their prayers and talk quietly to me and give and receive kisses and roll over, beloved animals clutched against their chests. I am aware to the point of pain of how sweet and fleeting these moments at my childrens’ bedsides are, with the lullabyes they still listen to wafting through the air and their eyes shining in the dim nightlight-lit darkness.
But the truth is I am also often tired myself, and wanting to get to my short window of time alone before I go to bed myself. Sometimes I feel impatience surging in my chest, and I try to tamp it down, remembering how precious these minutes are, reminding myself to look closely at my children, to listen, to brush kisses on their foreheads, to breathe in their shampoo-fresh hair and still-young-child smell.
Always, I whisper, as I go, “I’ll see you in the morning.” And always they smile faintly at me, already drifting into sleep. And I close the door quietly behind me and stand outside their door, invariably, every night, for a moment, feeling gratitude wash over me, often with a thread of guilt running through it: why was I impatient with so precious a moment?
It occurred to me recently that that sentence right there – I’ll see you in the morning – is the mother-child bond incarnate. Isn’t it? They are the words I utter as I exercise the enormous, ineffable privilege of being the last person two children speak to before they go to bed. They are words which vow that I’ll be there in the morning, and words that promise another day. No matter what emotions the day has brought, no matter what fireworks or tears dinner or bath (“bed, bath, and beyond,” as I’ve long said) contained, bedtime is always peaceful at our house. The moments when I sit on the edge of Grace or Whit’s bed, leaning over them, listening and murmuring, these are some of my very, very favorite moments of being a mother.
Something like holiness – or grace – floats in the room, not always, but often, and I try to breathe it in. I’ll see you in the morning. While I can still say that, I will, with all my heart in every word.