I lie on the couch, staring at the beautiful fire my husband built for me before going out with friends. The girls are finally in bed. The dogs are motionless, at long last done for the night. It’s just me. I’ve waited all day for this moment, when time is mine. As someone who recharges in solitude, winter is especially hard. There’s little breathing room in our house when outside isn’t an option. But now, at this moment, the room is warm, the fire crackles like falling snow, I have nothing to do that can’t be put off. I’m alone. And yet I’m restless.
Since becoming a grown-up –which I mentally equate with becoming a parent– I find myself sort of idolizing time. With the kids, it’s in retrospect. The laughter, the silliness, how little they used to be. But when it comes to my time it’s a constant thought process. Trying to multitask so that I’m rehearsing lines while cleaning the kitchen so I can relax sooner. Or folding laundry while eating lunch (not always the best idea) so that I can relax for a few minutes before the kids get home. Or skimping on the bedtime routine so that I can get back downstairs to veg out in front of the fire before it goes out. To relax a little. But I don’t know how often I ever really relax. Especially in moments like these when I know I’ve short-changed my kids to get there.
Our bedtime routine takes maybe 10 minutes per kid. Two stories, prayer journals, tuck in. And tonight they were sleeping in one room, so I could’ve banged it out in one shot. But I just didn’t want to do it. So instead I gave them the ol’ not tonight_______ (insert excuse here). They didn’t even blink. No whining. Nothing. They shrugged me off. At least when they fight back I can justify it. But when they don’t care, I know I’ve done it so many times that it’s become more routine than the actual routine itself. So I can’t relax. I’m too irritated with myself. I don’t want my laziness to be the routine.
That’s when it’s kind of fun to be the grown-up. Because I know I don’t have to leave things the way they are just because it’s bedtime. So I get up, push the couch across the room so it’s right in front of the fire, and call the girls downstairs. Curious, they creep down a few steps and peer through the railings at me. I tell them to grab their blankets and join me by the fire. They fly down the stairs, squealing the whole way, and beat me to the couch I’m standing right behind.
We spend the next hour piled up on cushions and in blankets. Giggling, being silly, and telling stories. They request their favorites about times they embarrassed me, pooped on me, and did sweet things that made me cry. They have certain stories they like, adjusting for parts they feel I’ve missed, even though I was the one who actually remembers it, not them. It gets hot by the fire in the dark. Parts of pajamas are stripped (not mine; I’m always cold), and butts are flashed (again, not mine; no one wants to see that). But what’s a fire party without butts?
An hour or so later, I tuck them back in. Both smiling, whispering thanks. Telling each other how surprised they still are. How much they loved being on the couch in the wrong place with me. Suggesting that maybe we move it. Maybe we will.
Their door closed, I slip back downstairs, snuggle up on the couch, and watch the fire die. It’s still warm. It still crackles. And I finally, finally relax.
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