"Yes...who is it?" I questioned, slightly irritated.
I knew it was a long shot, but I had desperately wanted to isolate myself for a few minutes and get ready for the day ahead without noise, without interruption, without being pawed at and climbed upon, without anyone in my arms [or hanging on my pants, determined not to let go until they had been lifted up to my hip]. I achieved my goal for about .9 seconds.
"It's me." The tiny voice on the other side of the door caught me off guard. This was my youngest. A sweet and vocal 18-month-old girl. I had expected an older voice from one of my other children to respond.
"Me who?" I asked, trying to buy myself another fraction of a second.
"How are you, me?"
"What do you need?"
"Ummm..." [Insert the most adorable little baby girl babble - that I am absolutely certain had a very specific meaning, but was unable to adequately decipher - here.] "....my Mom."
"You want to come in???"
"Mm-Hmm." She said it very quickly and matter-of-factly. Yes. I had understood her precious babble correctly. I'm out here, you're in there...I want to be in there too.
I couldn't help but to smile, and meet her at the door. I opened it and there she was, beaming up at me. I am her Mama. The poor darling doesn't even know any better than to adore me. If she had known that I had shut the door in an attempt to hide from her and her siblings, she had already forgiven me, and was delighted to sit and watch me for a few moments.
Of course, that didn't last long and she wanted to play with my make-up and brush her hair and empty any drawer she could reach.
But how could I resist her sweet knock at the door, or her enthusiastic, untranslatable plea to be included in the excitement in the bathroom that morning? I simply could not.
Yesterday I held both the girls in my arms late in the evening, well past bedtime.
Those short hours after the kids fall asleep are my sanctuary. Once the constant demand for attention comes to a halt, I can begin to filter through my thoughts a little. I am able to accomplish the tasks that have been set aside all day. Who knew spending an hour washing dishes could be something to look forward to, huh? *sigh*
My little ones were not cooperating with my plan, however. Although one child had successfully fallen asleep, the other two were squirming on my lap. Sleepy, yet determined to be too hot, too cold, not comfy, a little scared...or the latest complaint, and one of my personal favorites..."kind of ticklish" and entirely unable to rest, I finally gave up and pulled them on my lap.
We all sat together, rocking and chatting and snuggling. Then came the wiggling and the stretching. My youngest was pulling at my shirt and petting my face, my older daughter squirmed and pushed her legs out, then back in...then out. She was rubbing my hand with her tiny fingers - over and over and over. I closed my eyes and assured myself that they would fall asleep any moment. "Take a breath. Let them snuggle." my inner mother coached. I love my girls, but there is only so much touching one can endure. It was now eleven. Way, way past acceptable bedtime delay tactic hours.
Finally, I could take it no longer. I turned to my older daughter. "You have to stop touching me." I said. She rubbed my cheek affectionately. I snapped. "Stop it! Stop it! You cannot touch me anymore!!" She stared blankly at me, my guess is that she was entirely unsure what to think of my reaction.
"Sweetheart, I love you. I love to snuggle with you, but I just need a little space."
I kissed her and she hopped off to bed. I tucked her in AGAIN [note the subtle tension] and eeked out the courage to hug and kiss her once more before I returned to hopefully successfully lull my baby to sleep.
As I sat there begrudgingly holding my little girl, I felt awful. "I am such a horrible mother," I thought. [You mothers understand the sort of criticisms we internally throw around.] As I wrestled through the self-inflicted blows, I came to the conclusion that in the end, I would rather be loved to the point of claustrophobia than to be untouched and lonely. I began to pray for others who might be desperately needing to be near someone else, and slowly...as I stopped being so consumed with how I felt or what I wanted, I began to pull my nearly sleeping baby closer. I was no longer holding her because I had to, I held her because she has been given to me to love.
Some days, I vaguely remember what it was like to wake up and have no concerns beside preparing myself for the day ahead of me. I miss it. I yearn to shower uninterrupted. I would love to sit down at the table with a cup of tea and slice of toast and just think - just be quiet for a little while. My reality is constant voices, constant needs, continuous questions, conflicts, correction and, of course, cuteness too.
Some days, I want to be alone. I think I need to get away and have some space. As much as I adore those tiny fingers, I dread the thought of them touching me one more time.
These are the memories I need to remind myself of. I must not get caught up in life and in my self and forget what wonderful treasures I have growing older every minute that I hold them in my arms. I cannot neglect the very important work of loving them. I must not forget to invite them in when they knock on the door, or to pull them onto my lap when they cannot sleep because they are "too ticklish". Perhaps I will just need to tickle them before bed and leave the bathroom door open.
Even though I love them more than I could ever put into words, I often fail.
I have so much more to learn about loving.
I am so thankful I get to learn with them.
I am thankful for little knocks on the door that interrupt me.
I am thankful for loving arms that squeeze me until I can't stand it anymore.
What lovely gifts I have been given.