Sometimes I wish I knew how many times my mom and dad had to change their plans, get up in the night, or get up earlier than they wanted to, on account of me in my first 2-3 years. Then again, I am sure I was like any other baby or toddler and I did my share of making things difficult for my parents. I guess our formative years are in many ways as much a learning curve for the parents as they are for the children. All children start at day one, but parents arguably have experience to draw on once they have more than child, right? Well, yes and no. Sure there are some things about raising multiple children that make tasks and routines easier the next time around. Then there’s also the new, or different dynamic or raising another child while also having another child or children in the same household.
This morning was another morning where the kids woke me up long before I intended to get up and tackle the day. My wife has been, the middle of the night, or early morning riser many more times than I. When I am tired, more like over tired, I don’t wake up well most times. Many times I have been compared unfavorably to a bear coming out of hibernation. I know this about myself, better now than I would have previously admitted. Either way, I am, and have been making a conscious effort to be better about my own demeanor and help more with the kids in these, “parenting in the dark”, moments.
Oh, and I when I say ‘kids’, I generally mean our twins who are almost 18 months old. A boy and a girl who somehow seem more precious with each passing day. Which is saying a lot because I thought they were as precious as it gets from the day my wife told me we were having not one, but two babies. Now, I have 6 kids ranging from age 19 to 18 months. So I have been down this kids road before. But I have never been down this road, in this scenario, within this dynamic before. Thus the return to formative years. I guess we never really stop being in formative years although some years are more difficult to navigate than others.
When I rolled over this morning and noticed our door was open and my wife was out of bed I looked over to my shoulder to see the clock. I couldn’t read the time as my eyes were clearly not ready to be open and functioning. Once the blurry numbers came into focus, I muttered to myself, “It doesn’t matter, it’s just too early, it’s still dark outside”. I could hear the babies crying from their room on the monitor in our room. I wondered for a second or two why they were crying if my wife was already tending to them. My wife is awesome with the twins. There is peace in her arms. So I got up and went out into the hall to find the babies room door closed and my wife coming up the stairs with cups of milk. We both went into their room and each grabbed a twin. I picked him up out of his crib and he just put his head down on my shoulder while she went with my wife to snuggle in our bed. He is Theodore, she is Jacqueline, and my amazing wife is Amaris, also known as Mare in our family.
As I stood in the dark, holding my youngest son and gently swaying back and forth, my mind wandered. I thought many things. I thought of how much I wish I was still asleep and that today could be a really long day. I thought of how this little boy in my arms just conforms his body, leaning over my shoulder, with his head resting gently against my neck, and finds comfort easily. I thought of how these moments, inconvenient or otherwise, really are the ones I will miss when they are gone. I thought there’s nothing inconvenient about it really, it’s a privilege. I thought, how many times did my mom or dad do this for me as a child? I thought, what if they hadn’t? I thought, I am glad I am here, right now, present right now, awake right now, to care for my son. I thought there is beauty and enjoyment in many moments no matter how big or small. I could feel Theodore’s arms drop as his breathing eased, and although I couldn’t see his eyes, I sensed his eyelids were growing heavy again. I quietly sauntered over to his crib to lay him down. He stiffened some trying to cling to me, but didn’t fight it. As I returned him to his pillow, he lied there, looking up at me in the dark. He was still. He was quiet. I stood there looking down at him in the dark. I watched him until his eyes closed. It was a wonderful moment that I am glad I could experience. It certainly wasn’t the first and won’t be the last one of these moments, but they are all special.
I made my way back to Amaris and Jacqueline as Theodore gave in to sleep, at least for the moment. I was ready to go back to bed and go to sleep. As I got closer to laying down I noticed Jacqueline was restless, wrestling with sleep, but keeping Amaris from restful sleep. I leaned over Jacqueline and whispered to her while her eyes were tightly closed, as if she was trying too hard to sleep. She reached for me and I picked her up so as to let Mare rest and enjoy some more sleep. I slipped out of our room while it was quiet and still dark outside.
See, I work from home everyday, and care for our twins all day, so I have a routine with the kids all our own. Our nap time routine has taken on its own identity. The kids actually look forward to it everyday. It’s pretty cute and often times funny, but I will tell you about that another time. Anyway, the point is that at nap time, Jacqueline sleeps downstairs in a playpen while Theodore sleeps upstairs in his crib. I guess this started when they would sleep at different times and I kept them separate as not to wake one another as they would go down at different times. Now they go for naps at the same time and this set up works so I have kept it the same. This morning when I came downstairs with Jacqueline I intended on her going back to sleep in her playpen. First I rocked her in my favorite chair, our Canadian Rocker, in the dark, and just let her rest on me. She was calm, quiet, completely at ease. I whispered to her that we were going to her playpen and off we went. I placed her in her playpen, on her pillow, and tucked a blanket around her. She never made a sound, closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep.
As you parents out there know, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of holding your own child close enough to forget the world outside that embrace exists. See, that’s the privilege, the closeness, the bond, the feeling of being needed, and the need to be the parent present for your child. So my day started early, and maybe it will be a long day, but so what. When the kids are grown and gone, or I am old and embracing memories, it’s these days that I will wish had been longer. We all know these days pass way too fast. That’s what makes this morning so special. It was dark, it was quiet, it was still, it was perfect. I held both my babies, close to me, feeling every bit of need they had for me at that moment, and ultimately was happy to have that privilege. This morning, I call it as I see it, parenting in the dark. My privilege.