Evenings can be fraught in this house. We get in, always hungry whether or not we’ve eaten dinner minutes earlier. Snacks and drinks are served, someone (at least one) will be crying or whinging. Someone else will want attention. There will be homework to check, or to do, notes from school, lunchboxes to empty, clean and refill.
We chat a bit, I’ll break up some fights and let others run their course while I pick up Lego. I’ll wipe worktops and clean dishes.
There’s be an argument over which TV show to watch, a debate over whose turn it is to choose. Then follow the inevitable protests that it couldn’t possibly be bedtime.
Toothpaste is painted on sinks and mirrors. Children splash and slosh. The wrong pyjamas are suggested, and refused. Someone small jumps on a bed, preferably without having too many clothes on.
Eventually everyone is dressed and the bedtime rituals commence. Prayers, blessing everyone we know. Stories, of Freddy Buttons or dancing giraffes. Kisses and hugs, bunnies located, tucks in. Reassurance. Love proclaimed and just one more hug.
Love you, goodnight.
Moments later, as I lay out uniforms I hear footsteps. Urgent questions. Forgotten toilet trips. Important school news or updates on how many chapters have been read.
Downstairs I assemble lunchboxes and refill the dishwasher.
Footsteps on the stairs, ” I just wanted to give you a hug”. The know my weak spots. I rush them back up the stairs and finally reach the couch.
Too long later I realise it’s past the time I should have hit the hay and trudge up the stairs.
I open the small girl’s door slowly, she often jumps at the slightest bit of light, just like me. She’s usually lying on her tummy, little bum dressed in pink patterned pjs stuck up in the air. She clings to her bunnies, both gifts from close friends when she was born. Her soother is discarded to one side, no longer needed as she breathes slowly, the little blonde mop hiding her features. So calm, I resist the urge to stroke her head as it will surely wake her but lean in as close as I can.
Goodnight my beautiful girl, I say in a whisper.
The boys’ room already smells of boy, even though they’re only five and seven. They lie in their bunks, one stripped to his underwear on top of the duvet, the other in a fleece pyjamas under the duvet. One has his snugglies close, he lies with hands behind his head and a contented half smile on his face. The other is strewn across the bed spread like a starfish. The worries of the day have evaporated and they look serene. So different in every way yet their breathing seems to be in time, one mirroring the other, both echoing in my heart.
I loudly whisper “Goodnight my angel boys”. I’ve said it for years but they don’t know it.
Part of me wants to wake them with hugs, to hear their little voices and watch as they sleepily rub their eyes. I know better.
I love them most of all when they’re asleep, when they’re quite and calm and I can see them in all their innocence. Their foibles hidden, their little faces a delight. I look at them and see their daddy and I, what we created. I see these little people who amaze me every day with their individuality and complexity. I look, and stare. I breathe them in, overawed by their being.
I love them more than anything, I realise it most when they’re asleep.
Goodnight my beautiful girl, goodnight my angel boys.
*For the sake of chronology I should state that the small girl has been in her big girl bed for the past two weeks, and her soother was traded with Santa for chocolate, I wrote the first draft of this post before then. You don’t care but she does.