My husband and I had finally settled down for the 30 minutes we spend alone together each night on the couch before passing out from utter exhaustion. The clock said 9:15pm and I was just about ready to “relax” (whatever that means these days) when we heard it.
“It” being the high pitched shrieking. From across the house. We both sunk further into the couch.
My husband, who works incredibly hard for our family and is typically at work 12+ hours a day, jumped up. He’s been better about that lately, truth be told. I wonder if he senses our babies slipping away, too.
He tried but there was just no settling her. She screamed and screamed. And howled. Screamed some more. He reported she was having a tantrum and throwing all the things from her crib, which she’s been prone to do lately since, you know, she’s just about two.
As with most days, it had already been a long one. Our middle daughter had been home with a fever, and it was the sort of day where you don’t put the baby down for a nap because the carpet cleaners are coming during said nap time … only for the carpet cleaners to tell you they can’t actually clean your carpet for fear of ruining it. Just a typical day, really, full of problems that aren’t actually problems but that wear you down nonetheless.
I’m tired. He’s tired. We’re all just tired. I wanted to sit on the couch and just be, but I couldn’t ignore the shrieking. Not tonight.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m actually running out of these nights to sink into the couch in utter exhaustion from the preschool years. I know the teenage years will be hard also. But they won’t be hard like this.
The teenage years won’t be full of small people who need me not just because they want me but because they literally need me. I’m sure I will worry about who they’re dating and their grades and whether I should trust them behind the wheel, but that’s a different kind of hard. Right now the demands of my children can feel incessant and relentless. Just when I sit down someone somewhere needs something. Why should 9:15pm be any different, really?
So to my husband’s dismay, probably because he can tolerate the shrieking better and probably because he needs adult time as much as I do, I went to our daughter’s crib. I picked her up and we rocked. I let her snotty face melt into my chest and we rocked in the darkness. I could feel her relief as her inconsolable sobs slowly turned to calm breathing and she found comfort in my arms.
What if our daughter never shrieks at 9:00pm inconsolable looking for us again? It’s slightly irrational, I know. Most nights we’d ignore her and she’d self-soothe and be just fine.
But I suddenly realized tonight that I’m running out of nights to rock my baby.
Whether she needed me or I needed her, I’m not clear. Perhaps we were simply rocking one another tonight.