So, recently I’ve been the one to put our youngest two children to bed. The process begins with unbelieving faces that sort of morph into childlike versions of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, with open mouths supported by gripping hands. Their swirling cries take the place of loud color.
My request that they “please use the potty” is met with collapsing on to the floor and tears of disappointment, but the reminder that there will be books helps to raise spirits. We accomplish the rest (the changing into pajamas, the brushing of the teeth, the crawling into mommy and daddy’s bed for story time) through the thick air of resignation and lost hope.
The books help to bring it down several notches. The books serve as an end stop to a sentence of uncertainty. When the books come out, they know there is no going back.
Then the fluffing of the pillows and last call and we might as well be down at the tavern for all the begging and pleading for one last drink. But the lights are out and the fan is on and I’m in bed between these two little people.
Sam plants his forehead against my shoulder, clutching his yellow blanket and sucking his thumb. He is asleep in three minutes.
Abra moves into her bed, and I get down beside her. She has this remarkable talent of manipulating your arms and turning her body in such a way that before you know it, you are hugging her, and you didn’t even mean to be. And she giggles, because she knows that once again she is being hugged, and that is her favorite thing of all.
“Good night, Abra,” I whisper and then I get my computer and sit on the chair in the room, in the dark. Sammy snores occasionally. Abra chats to herself or sings or does whatever it is that she is doing. My computer screen glows. Light comes in from the hall.
Soon Cade and Lucy creep into the room to get their pajamas on and to say good night. I smile at them, so grown up now, but they cannot see my face in the dark. So many things seem lost between me and my children, and sometimes they are things that I desperately want them to know or feel, and other times I let those things be lost, and I am okay with it.
Then, eventually, Abra is still. I carry Sam to his small bed and he pulls his knees up to his chest and I lay a huge blanket over him. And I walk out of the room, and another bed time is finished, and I realize it was one of the few times all day where I sat in the silence. One of the few times when I let stillness rest on my skin without pushing it away.
That is one of my goals this Advent season: savor the stillness.