My days of rocking children to sleep are almost over, but I haven’t quite been able to kick it yet. Although Holden has never needed to be rocked to sleep, he has recently taken to it, and I will not deny him. Because he is my last baby and he is only holding onto babyhood by a very thin thread.
When I tell him it’s time to go upstairs he fusses and screams, wanting to stay and play, forever, it seems. On the changing table, I strong arm him down while I change his diaper and put on his pajamas. Then I wrap him in his favorite blue holey blanket and try my best to read him stories.
But he doesn’t give in easily. He is like a flopping fish – relentlessly fighting bedtime. He wriggles out of my lap and runs to the gate, trying desperately to escape. He screams and hollers. He tells me of all the things he wants to do instead – play cars or trains or watch “Aristocats” for the gazillionth time. But eventually I will find exactly the right book or he will bore himself out of distractions and he will crawl back onto my lap.
He finds his favorite resting place, right over my heart. He will guzzle a gallon of milk if I will give it to him. All in one sip, he sucks down everything in his cup. And then, his thumb finds his mouth. His eyelids, which were like the type of magnets that repel each other, instantly transform into the type that attract each other. The flopping fish gives in and stops flopping.
And there, in that moment, while I watch him sleep, I smell his hair and cup his head in my hand. I whisper sweet nothings into his ear. I stay like that for a moment, because in this calm I forget all of the crazy. But always, I know that he is recharging for tomorrow, when we will go through this ordeal again. And always, I know, after all the struggle will come the sweetness of peace.