I closely studied the two women checking out in front of me, my eyes veiled and afforded maximum stalking capabilities by the ever-present ball cap resting atop my head. They looked to be in their late fifties to early sixties, old enough to have garnered wisdom and experience and wrinkles, young enough to still look trendy and attractive. Their skin was deeply tanned, their nails were meticulously polished, and the older of the two, standing directly in front of me, even wore a beaded pink bracelet on her ankle.
On her ankle.
It matched her pale pink necklace perfectly and served as a glinting testament to the time and care she was able to devote to her appearance that morning. (I’ve yet to see a frazzled stay-at-home mom sporting a beaded, outfit-coordinating anklet.) I shuffled self-consciously in my tank top and mesh shorts, my running shoes squeaking loudly on the waxed linoleum.
Someday I’ll have the time and energy to put myself together like that again… I thought longingly.
I sighed inwardly in self-pity until a revelation popped into my brain:
To have that much time and energy for myself is to live in the lonely corners of an empty nest.
Cue the tears.
Those days seem so, so far ahead on the horizon, and I confess, there are evenings I collapse in a heap on the couch and entertain the fleeting thought that maybe they will be a welcome relief.
But I know those days will become my reality much sooner than I am ready for them. And I know that when my nest is finally emptied out and room is made for the stillness and peace I so often desire, I will look back on these helter-skelter moments and wish for nothing more than the shrill twittering of little fledglings echoing off the branches once more.
I know that I will yearn for these madhouse days just as deeply as I currently yearn for a little peace and quiet.
Why am I never satisfied?
“Laynie, did you know that I have your song on C.D.?” I asked recently as we climbed into the car. Your little face lit up in the rearview mirror, and I dug in the console until I found the dusty disc. As the strains of Hillsong United’s Soon flooded the speakers, I was stunned by the stillness that suddenly surrounded us. You and Crosbie were absolutely entranced, staring motionless out your windows as the soft vocals swirled around your ears.
I will be with the One I love
With unveiled face I’ll see Him
There my soul will be satisfied
Soon and very soon
I’ve been singing this song to you since you crossed our threshold for the very first time, swaddled and screaming, fresh from the hospital and fresh from my womb. I can’t explain why, since this certainly wouldn’t be considered a traditional lullaby, but as I rocked you incessantly for the first painstaking 15 months of your life, this was the song that flowed out of my bleeding heart. It was quickly christened “Laynie’s Song,” but once your daddy and I allowed you to start sleeping in our bed, you no longer required rocking and singing. You were so completely happy and secure with us that you would curl up and go right to sleep once your head hit the pillow next to mine.
So your song went unsung.
And the months went by and the relief I initially felt at your finally being able to sleep soon turned to frustration and weariness.
Because co-sleeping with a toddler is not for the faint of heart.
Half the time I woke during the night with no covers and no pillow, teetering on the edge of the mattress while you snored like a grizzly in hibernation, your arms and legs stretched out as far as they could possibly extend. The other half of the time I sustained kicks to the face, elbows to the back, and frantic midnight searches for your little body. (We found you upside down, head hanging off the foot of the bed more than once.) “Co-sleeping” is a ridiculous term because, newsflash, the adults in this arrangement never actually sleep.
I grew so accustomed to sharing my sacred space with a flailing, kicking, blanket-hating princess that I naively believed the days of having my bed all to myself and your daddy again were so, so far ahead on the horizon. I yearned for those days, and I actually believed that my life would be so much better once you started sleeping in your own room, that parenting and adulting would flow so much more smoothly with a peaceful night’s sleep as my daily foundation.
I was completely unsatisfied.
So I was stunned when, after transforming your nursery into a “big girl room” during recent home renovations, you took one look at your new space, gasped in awe, and declared that you wanted to sleep in your new bed THAT NIGHT.
I was equally stunned that this happened immediately after I remembered, out of the blue, that I had your song on C.D. in my car.
The song that brings back every vivid memory of those early sleepless nights, the song that instantly calls to mind the face of that screaming baby girl who just couldn’t stand the solitude of her crib, the song that represents my desperate desires for you to know peace and security… that song had just been pulled out of hiding, had been playing on repeat during our daily traipses around town.
Your song was being sung once again. And it was a sign.
I should have been delighted, should have been leaping for joy, should have been shouting from the mountaintops that I would finally get my bed back… but despite my confidence that you were ready for this, I was suddenly hemming and hawing, trying to think of any excuse for why you couldn’t make the big move quite yet.
“Well, we just got settled back in our house, silly,” I stammered, “and I still need to get a mattress rail so you don’t fall out during the night, and I think you should just get used to your room for a while first, and maybe we can just start with a few daytime naps…”
I had dreamed of this day for years. But suddenly I wasn’t ready for it.
I managed to put you off for about three weeks. But once the mattress rail was acquired and strapped securely to the side of your bed, the change was inevitable. So your daddy and I read to you and prayed with you, and you asked me to sing Soon.
It was poetic.
I was back in the same room, singing the same song, my arms wrapped around the same beautiful baby girl as before. (You’re so tall now that you’ve outgrown my lap and I have to lie down next to you in your bed to sing. But you’ll always be my baby.) And this time I was thinking about how quickly the time had passed, how quickly a challenging season that I was convinced would never end had suddenly come screeching to a halt.
Your breathing slowed and deepened, and for a few moments I simply watched your chest rise and fall. Then I kissed your cheek, turned off your lamp, tiptoed out as quietly as I could… and collapsed in a blubbering heap in your daddy’s arms.
“I was so busy complaining,” I gasped out, “that I didn’t realize how soon she would be gone. I didn’t even stop to think that last night was the last time she would fall asleep on my pillow. I should have held her closer, should have stayed in bed longer this morning and watched her sleep, should have cherished the moments. But it’s over now, and I didn’t even enjoy it.
“It’s over. And it happened too soon.”
I can’t count the number of times I grumbled about the exhaustion and frustration of sharing my bed with you, the number of times I wished for you to hurry and grow up just a little bit more so that I could finally start sleeping again after nearly five long years of utter fatigue. I complained and I whined and I wished the time right through my fingers, believing that I would finally be satisfied when this one little change occurred.
And then it did. And my heart broke into pieces, and I wished for just one more night with you cradled up against me, kicking off the covers and waking me in the morning with kisses.
And I was reminded that I will never be satisfied.
Being a mom is hard. (Understatement of the century.) It is draining and exhausting and requires every ounce of energy and perseverance and gumption a woman can possibly muster. It is hard in every sense of the word, but perhaps hardest of all is the realization that just as we grow accustomed to a new season of life, just as we learn to embrace our present circumstances, just as we realize afresh what a blessing this very hard, very refining work is… It changes.
And suddenly we are faced with a new type of hard, a new brand of challenge, a new level of difficult we’re simply not sure we can manage. So we think to ourselves, Once they just finish teething, everyone will start sleeping again… once they can learn to entertain themselves for a while, I’ll actually be able to get something done… once they can talk and tell me what’s wrong they’ll be so much easier to take care of… once they’re just a little bit older, we’ll be able to get out of the house more… Soon my life will be great.
Always tomorrow. Never today.
Then those things actually happen. One by one they fly by like mile markers on a proverbial highway, and before we know it our babies are babies no longer and we realize that we spent our time wishing… never being satisfied.
I don’t want to wish away any more of these precious moments. I don’t want to take for granted any snuggle, any season, even any challenge. Because they’re all pieces of our story, pieces that I will look back on longingly one day when I am alone in my nest, the silence and stillness ensuring that I have plenty of time to curl my hair and apply my makeup, to polish my nails and secure my beaded bracelet around my ankle.
I will look back on this story and, instead of feeling grateful for the calmness of my days, I will wish for all the world to go back and dance within these chaotic pages once again.
But then again, the wishing is actually part of the story, isn’t it?
Because we were created to long and yearn and desire until we are dancing in the only Home we were ever meant to occupy. Until our nests and our hearts are finally made whole and we are finally satisfied.
I will be with the One I love
With unveiled face, I’ll see Him
There my soul will be satisfied
Soon and very soon
I know that I will never experience pure and complete satisfaction on this earth. But I guess I’m finally making peace with that realization.
Because sitting on the edge of your big girl bed, watching you sleep peacefully with Lammy curled tightly under your arm…
That’s about as close to pure and complete satisfaction as I’ll ever get.
I love you every day,