Near the Children

We keep two little sleeping bags side by side on the floor by our bed for nights with nightmares, monsters, or if tummies don't feel well.  J's is a racoon that is well loved with a broken zipper and flattened pillow face.  A few months ago, he came down from his room rubbing his eyes and complaining of a stomach ache.  He went straight for his racoon, tucked himself in, and promptly fell back asleep.  I let him sleep in and ignored our normal weekday morning timeline.
The sleeping bags make the room look cluttered and messy but I won't put them away.  I fall asleep looking at those sleeping bags, whether occupied or not.  They are a reminder that right now in their lives there is no more secure and safe place than right next to mom and dad.  The day will come when the sleeping bags get rolled up and put away and our room will be nice and neat.  But that day is not here yet.
Sometimes they come down for no reason at all.  Joel doesn't want them getting into the habit of this.  They need to know how to go back to sleep on their own, in their own beds.  But my heart does not care.  My heart tightens when I see their tiny tired faces poke around the door and as they find their way in the dark to their place and sink down between the two halves of the sleeping bag.  I find myself sighing with utter satisfaction at their nearness and I listen to hear their breathing grow heavy.
Some nights, when Joel is gone on shift, I have an overwhelming desire to have them near me.  I want to feel their small bodies next to me, hear their breathing, smell their tooth paste, vicks rub, and diaper cream.  I want to inhale the last wisps of infancy because I sense its departure is near.  I go up to their rooms and check on them, making more noise than necessary, hoping they'll wake and want to come down to their sleeping bags.  And this just mere minutes after struggling through bedtime, internally begging them to just-go-to-sleep.  The emotions of motherhood often catch me off guard- they come so strongly, so suddenly - sometimes it's fighting tears of frustration, other times I want to hole up by myself and ignore everything else, and still other times it's this tug to be near them and hold them close.
When J first woke up he said he felt okay but not ten minutes later he was whimpering that his tummy hurt again.  It was already 30 minutes past our normal morning departure time but I carried him out to the couch and let him snuggle on my shoulder, his body curled on my lap.  L woke up and came downstairs not long after.  He wordlessly climbed up on my lap and lay his head down on my other shoulder.
I had put my head back against the couch and let my body relax with the small bodies tucked close on each side of me.  Work would be there when I got there, or even if I didn't get there that day, but the children only have so many more mornings of wanting only to curl into my lap.

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