Child # 5 somehow slipped herself right between us as we had finally plopped down to sleep. How do they do that? It’s like they have a superpower for undetectable-bed-entry but once they are in there, they make their presence know with their signature moves of taking-all-the-blankets, placing-cold-feet-on-your-warmest-parts, breathing-dragon-breath-right-in-your-face and anything else that can reek havoc on your plan for peaceful slumber. The smallest child can command a sleeping space in such a way that full-adults are banished to the edges. Someone should find a way to channel that energy and use it for good…That’s not really what this is about…
We have six kids. Each of them see themselves as one, not as one-of-six. They crave undivided attention or at least a pretty good chunk of your focus. They find lots of ways to place themselves in the middle of whatever you may have planned on doing so that you have to notice them. Sometimes they do that by being cute and snuggly. Sometimes they grab you with a great story about their day. If you have been particularly absent, they break things or rules to get noticed. Whatever the tactic, the end-goal is the same. They want to be seen by you. We all want that.
I am not one of those people that says you have to build some contrived ritual to have one-on-one time with your offspring…that sells books and keeps capitalism rolling along. Doing the dishes together is perfect. Walking the dog, folding laundry, raking leaves, cooking dinner…anything can provide some time to just hear one little voice for a while. They will keep looking over at you to see if you are paying attention to their recounting of who said what to whom at recess and what happened next. Luckily, listening is all they are looking for. They want to be listened to. We all want that.
So, child #5 had both of us. She knew we were not going anywhere and if she could keep talking quickly enough, we would probably stay awake for most of what she wanted to share. She started a new school recently and really misses her friends. She likes the kids she is meeting but they just aren’t the same…they don’t know what is guaranteed to make her laugh, they don’t know that she loves tiny things and doesn’t like edamame, they don’t have jokes that they have told one another forever. She needed us to shut-up and sit-still long enough to hear her. Getting to what is really bugging her takes a little time and she had been working up to talking through this for a while. She didn’t want us to solve this…just to listen. She didn’t need us to change anything…just to care. She needed us to lay there and give her the stage for as long as she needed to get all the feelings out. Then she needed us to hold her and walk the careful line between it’s-ok-to-feel-sad and you-will-definitely-feel-better-soon (that is a tricky maneuver). She wanted empathy. We all want that.
Somehow, none of the other kids burst into the room and we were able to keep our eyes open long enough and I didn’t say anything too stupid and neither of us slipped off the edges of the bed….her needs were met. Undivided-attention happened, sardine-style. That one grace-filled moment was perfect.
One of our family’s favorite books was The Biggest Bed in the World.
If you run across it, its a fun one. If you have little ones, I promise that they will like it. If you ever had little ones, I promise that it will remind you of those nights of bedtime rituals and all the shenanigans that come as you try to find your perfect balance between getting sleep and parenting…HA…there is no perfect balance:)
This really is not far off what our bed looked like some nights…except that I never wore rollers in my hair and they have one more kid than we do…and one more cat…I am far enough from this stage of life to look at this fondly and see all the grace-growing that happened in tightly-squeezed nights. This is attachment. We all want that.