While you lay sleeping, I sat in the hallway and folded the laundry. I pulled warm clothing from the pile and as I folded it, I delighted in small t-shirts emblazoned with cartoon characters. I marvelled over toddler sundresses, I grinned at tiny pairs of socks. I folded your dad’s white t-shirts and noticed the dirt stains on the front. I thought about the box he built for our vegetable garden and how he wants to build more of them. I looked at my pile of faded black clothes, stretched out and cheap. Will you remember me in my uniform of black tank tops and yoga pants?
While you lay sleeping, I picked up your toys. I gathered up your artwork and added it to the leaning pile of watercolours that you all painted today. I know how upset you would be if I threw out your hard work. It may look like just a few scribbles to me but to you, to all of you, it was a map of your clubhouse and the rules for its members. I picked up your books and made sure that you had marked the places where you had left off. I matched your pairs of shoes, one shoe in the dining room, the other under the couch and I put them all back in the closet. I rinsed off your dishes and wiped down the table.
While you lay sleeping, I called my mom and shared with her all of the funny and remarkable things that you all did that day. I never tire of talking about you. I never grow bored of sharing your accomplishments. If anyone were to listen in, they’d surely think that none of this is newsworthy, but to me, it is all extraordinary. The pride I feel for all of you rises up as I recall the way that you helped your little sister learn some new words and the distance you hit that baseball.
You counted to five.
You rode without training wheels.
You slept without a diaper.
You cleaned up the bathroom without being asked.
You might not think that I see all of these things while the chaos of a regular Thursday blows with a hurricane force around me but I do. I see it. I saw you. Believe me when I say that I told everyone who would listen just how much I love you today.
While you lay sleeping, your father and I giggled as we cleaned up. He told me about his day and I shared mine. We danced the dance that we do every night, we swirled past one another with arms full of items en route to the recycling bin. I vacuumed around his toes while he cleaned a day’s worth of hand prints from the sliding doors and we laughed. Did you hear us laughing while you laid in your bed? Did you drift off to sleep while hearing us murmuring one floor down? I remember listening to my parents when I was your age and it filled me with such a deep sense of comfort and security. Did you hear the excitement in our voices as we were finally able to connect, uninterrupted by all of you? I hope you know that your father is my best friend. I wish you could see how much we adore each other when we finally have the chance to look into one another’s eyes without someone yelling for our attention.
While you lay sleeping, we pulled out our phones and looked at photos of the four of you. We studied old pictures that we have seen hundreds of times and turned our screens and said, “Look! Remember when they were this small!” I need you to know that although many days pass when I seem to be counting down the hours until your bedtime, not five minutes after you’re asleep, I miss you so deeply that my stomach actually aches with longing. I am not me without you. Your father and I show each other videos that we captured of you all playing and being silly and we laugh until we cry because the silence is too empty without you.
While you lay sleeping, your father paid the bills that keep us warm and fed. I planned your next day of lessons and we made lists for groceries and home repairs. We talked about the shed that we really need to buy before the snow falls and how poorly our grass has grown this summer. We worried about how sad one of you seemed today and talked about sports that you should try. We talked about how nice the girls were that we had over and how those are exactly the type of friends that we hope that you surround yourself with. We worried about how much longer our car would last. We felt guilty about how boring your summer has been. We promised each other that we would try to plan a fall getaway for the family. We promised each other that we would finally hire a babysitter and try that new restaurant downtown, the one that just won that award. We say these things every night in one way or another. There is such contentment in the familiarity of these words, in the way that couples talk after years of marriage.
While you lay sleeping, we prayed for you. We prayed that you would be kept safe and healthy and holy. We thanked God for each one of you and pleaded with Him to help us be the best parents possible. We asked for His forgiveness because we had yelled again, we were impatient, we didn’t model virtue. We spent time listening to talks given by faithful men and women, saints long gone and saints in the making so that we could grow in holiness in order to lead the way for you. We read the articles that we had bookmarked throughout the day because now we could read them carefully. We talked about how worrisome the world is right now and once again, we prayed. We asked each other “what if” and became anxious and we speculated about what the world will be like when you’re our age and again, we prayed.
While you lay sleeping, we watched one episode of one of “our shows” and I laid in your father’s lap while he played with my hair. I know that you rarely see us like that and that’s a shame. We shouldn’t wait until all is quiet before crawling into each other’s arms on the couch. You need to see more of that. Trust me though, we cuddle up close while we watch something that we both enjoy and here is the truth: as much as we love you guys, this moment is our favorite part of the day.
While you lay sleeping, we checked the doors and windows and locked up the house. We made sure that we were all safe and secure. We stood at the front window and looked out at the dark street and your father put his arm around me. And like every other night, we took a moment and thanked God for our house, for another day lived in peace. We climbed the stairs, exhausted and grateful and closed the baby gate because one of you walks in your sleep. We took turns quietly opening your bedroom doors and we slipped silently over to your beds. I always try to see your chest rising and falling and just to make extra sure, I lay my hand upon your back to feel your heart beating and once again, we thanked God.
While you lay sleeping, you still look like the babies we brought home years ago.
Nine years ago,
seven years ago,
four years ago,
two years ago…
Each one of you is softened in the darkness, sweaty from dreaming, holding onto special blankets and tattered stuffed animals. You haven’t changed all that much and that strikes a chord deep in my heart every single night. This never grows old, just like all of you, in sleep. You may think me silly and over-emotional but you will know this love one day, when you are standing over your own sleeping child, breathless and crying because nothing compares to this. I traced a cross onto your foreheads with my thumb and whispered “God bless you” as I kissed each cheek.
While you lay sleeping, your father and I crawled into our new king sized bed. The one we waited over a decade to buy. We turn to each other and in the darkness, again and again, our love overflows. This gift of marriage is lived out around the world while you all lay sleeping and with it, a thousand prayers are sent up for more children, for the love to multiply.
While you lay sleeping, we try to finally slip off into our own slumber. It is never a sleep that is truly restful because a parent’s guard is never forsaken. While you lay sleeping, we rouse with every sound and turn an ear towards every whimper and listen to see if you need us.
While you lay sleeping, you are able to dream with abandon and breathe easy in a state of repose because we are always just down the hall, always ready if you need us, even when we are in bed because while you are sleeping, you are never alone.
And even if we do sleep,
we dream of you
because we carry you always,
even while you are sleeping.