Bedtime in this house is challenging, to say the least. A constant dance of whose going to break first... the parent or the child... multiplied by 3. We know we have done it wrong and we know we are paying the consequences of our inconsistencies and spoiling.
So we expect it. Every night.
Tonight Katie is sick - strep throat - so with a 102 fever, amoxicillin in her system and tucked into her daddy's strong arms, she drifted off peacefully, like we wish she would every night.
Megan went down fine, a few 'Mama's' and yells, and then I heard her curl up and knew she was falling asleep.
Sarah is my fighter. She cries, she kicks, she screams, and she comes in and out over and over again until we finally have to get stern and let her cry herself to sleep.
I did not want that tonight so after I put Megan in her crib, I went into Sarah's room, curled her in my arms and rocked her on her bed.
I thought, "I wish I had a rocking chair."
And then the memories came flooding back. Of night after night after night, nursing and singing, rocking and patting, pushing non existent tussles of hair from her brow. Watching her baby eyes roll into sleep, hearing her breathe and grunt in her peace - a mother's love song, I used to think.
I remember telling myself I would count to 100 rocks and then lay her down. But 100 would come and go, turn to 1000, and I would keep counting, keep rocking, keep inhaling. I wanted to get away, to have some time for myself and my husband, but I did not want to leave.
So I rocked and rocked and rocked... like I did tonight.
I wish I had a rocking chair.
I remember rocking Katie, my first born, late into the night. Falling asleep with her in my arms and waking still not wanting to let her go. Reveling in the beauty and peace that can be compared to nothing else in this world... no matter the imagination. Her eyes running back and forth beneath her lids, her lips pursed and sucking imaginary milk.
And my Megan. So gentle and sweet... easy to rest, peaceful in sleep. Tiny and warm curled in my arms. I didn't count with her... I just rocked... and rocked... and rocked.
I want it all back. Those days of oblivion, when rocking a baby to sleep was the norm and not the exception. Where I could spend all night just being with them, protecting them, and watching them.
I can't do it now. They are growing. There are no rocking chairs in their rooms anymore. It has been moved to the back patio. No creak of the well used seat when I sit with the weight of a child ready to snuggle closely, letting their head's move back and forth to the rhythm of the chair. No comfort in their fuzzy heads after a rough day.
I wish I had a rocking chair.
Now I have to find space for them on my lap. Their legs dangle off the side. Their heads so heavy that my arms fall asleep in minutes from their weight, their torsos barely fitting. I have to hold onto them so they don't slide off.
I thought of the next time I might get to sit and rock a baby or child so small she still fits in my lap. Chances are it will be my Grandchildren, visiting with their mother's, snuggled to my breast. I wonder if I will count to 100, slower than I should, stretching it out as long as I can... not wanting to put them down... or give them back.
I'll listen to the creak of the old chair, well worn from the years of watching my children grow from my patio. Feel the baby breath on my neck, listen to her little noises, so tiny and definite. Sighs of contentment rising from her chest.
I'll hear her mother in a more than familiar voice asking if I rocked her so lovingly as a baby, and I will answer:
"This is why God made rocking chairs. So that when a woman sits in one, she remembers what it was like to rock her children, one by one, until they fit no more. So that she has a place to sit and watch them grow, and play, and learn, and be. So that the simple sound of the rocking brings back the years that were too short, the child that grew too fast, and the woman who grew in love. And so that one day, after her children are long gone, with families of their own, a Sunday afternoon on a breezy day, a picnic, a grandbaby, and a rocking chair can bring it all back... as if it were yesterday.
Yes, my love, I rocked you. And every time I sit in it, I am rocking you again."
I am glad I have a rocking chair.