It was obvious by the droopy eyes, which were covered in tonight’s dinner from tiny hands rubbing them, that bedtime was coming earlier for Ashlynn tonight. A good hour early.
Since it was my turn for bedtime duty, we headed to her room and began our nightly rituals. A new diaper, some water, and bedtime prayer. Usually I can tuck her under her “lovey” and caress her face a few times until she falls asleep.
But not tonight.
She started crying the moment I laid her down, refusing to stay in place. She pulled herself up to standing and reached out for me.
Usually I can ignore her pitiful pleas and walk out. Usually, she’ll fall asleep after a few minutes of fussing. And I can deal with a few minutes of crying.
But not tonight.
Maybe it’s the knowledge that she’s our last… maybe its that lately I’m reminded just how fast it goes… maybe its that I was just cuddling Devyn last week and remembering when she was Ashlynn’s age… maybe it’s the fact that I’m mushy in love with my family.
But tonight when she reached for me, I held out my own arms and she climbed right into them.
I settled her on my chest, her head rested on my shoulder, and I rocked back and forth on the balls of my feet. Back and forth. Side to side. Her arms snaked around my neck and pulled me closer.
I started my repertoire of lullabies, which truth be told, is sadly very small. I alternated between ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and ‘Jesus Loves Me’. Somewhere on the 4th round of ‘Jesus Loves Me’ she started humming with me. The hum that usually accompanies her exhausted state. Jon and I love that its not unusual to hear our baby girl singing herself to sleep.
And I soaked it all in. Every bit of it.
The feel of her curls as I stroked her hair. The curve of her back as patted it in an unknown beat. The soft breath as she exhaled in my neck. The sound of her tiny voice. The way we seemed to fit so perfectly together, two pieces of a puzzle.
With each verse, my throat thickened. I offered my heart in prayer, letting it speak things that I couldn’t while I sang my little one to sleep.
I prayed for my Ashlynn, for wisdom and strength in raising my Littles. I prayed for family and friends, both in the thick of raising their families and in the desire to start their families. I prayed that in the midst of the chaos, that when we’re in the trenches, when its just so hard and we feel so beat up, that we remember to steal these moments when we can. The small moments that buoy the hard times, that make it all worth it.
My voice hitched several times on the last two rounds. I was positive she was asleep, her little body heavier than moments before. And still I continued. Because I don’t do this enough. Because I take it for granted. Because even after doing this three times before, I’m still awed to my core that I get the privilege of raising these Littles.
I finally laid her back down, drew the blankets over her chest, and placed her baby in her arms when she drowsily reached out for her. I stared at my baby girl’s face, my heart still in my throat. I pray that the day never comes that this becomes too routine, too mundane, to cherish these moments when they come.