It’s not every day one gets to fully immerse oneself into the life of a parent. OK, “fully immerse” might be a strong description for a 40 hour experience, but it was legitimate all the same.
Last weekend, Mike and I babysat for our nieces and nephew while their parents were attending a wedding in Los Angeles. The three small fries live in Cheney, WA, so it wasn’t as if we meandered next door for a casual sleepover. We left Friday after work and arrived at 8PM to relieve the babysitter who was minding the gap between the parents’ departure and our arrival.
The kids go to bed at 7PM, so we were expecting an evening of quiet, perhaps watching a movie and having a glass of wine. But when we walked in the front door, we looked up the staircase and saw the oldest, Josiah, standing at full attention.
Mike and I have opposite instincts, of course. I’m instantly like, “Let’s say hi to him and then guide him back to bed.” Mike is like, “Look — he wants to be with his Uncle Mikey! And Uncle Mikey breaks the rules! Because Uncle Mikey rules!” I rolled my eyes and pointed to the three page Word document Uncle Mikey’s sister had left us, which clearly states bedtime is 7PM. Uncle Mikey just started looking for snacks.
We let seven-year-old Jo, as he’s called, stay up to the breaking-dawn hour of 9PM, and then he headed to bed without complaint. Mike and I poured a glass of wine and watched “Touching the Void,” because 90% of the DVDs on their Netflix live-stream were about mountain climbing — a true testament to the mountain climbing man of the house.
This was not a smart movie choice for me, because it set me on edge and made me think of darkness and cold and ice and danger — not ideal for babysitting in the middle of a prairie. I told Mike my concerns and he scoffed, “We’re in the middle of NOWHERE. Who would come rob us in the night when we’re half a mile from a paved road?!” It occurred to me this was the second time that evening that our logics left us in completely different places; to me, us being in the middle of a prairie only means that no one is around to hear my screams.
Dramatic, I know.
Uncle Mikey’s sister, Wendy, mentioned that it would be normal if their three-year-old, Ellie, woke up crying and came to sleep with us in the middle of the night. I thought that was not a big deal at all, until I realized as I lay in bed that it would mean a door swinging open at any hour in the middle of my REM cycle. Since the thought of this made my heart clench with anxiety, my body decided the best solution would be not to sleep at all.
Ergo, welcome to motherhood!
Come she did, like clockwork, and I was alert and ready for it. She came to the side of the bed and seemed not at all alarmed that the mother she was expecting was, in fact, her aunt. She just reached her arms out and climbed right in next to me, cuddling close.
The instantaneous feeling of being so completely necessary, so utterly comforting to this little girl made me wonder how I ever could have mistaken this event with something terrifying. I was so overcome with the desire to make everything peaceful for her, that I dared not move even long after my arm had fallen completely asleep under the weight of her little blonde head.
We stayed that way, still, silent, sleeping (one of us, anyway) until I knew it would be five long hours to morning if I didn’t make a small adjustment. I slipped my arm out from under her and rolled toward snoring Uncle Mikey, expecting that she would be really annoyed that I had ruined everything with my need to sleep. Instead, as if we slept that way every night, she threw her tiny arm around my neck and spooned me, and I thought I would die of unknown causes relating to adoration of Ellie.
Ergo, welcome to motherhood!
(Editor’s note: I am not pregnant, but merely sharing the cracking of my black heart. End quote.)