The One Where We Win the Prize
We looked over at each other across the couch last night and offered weary smiles. He held up his glass, and I held up mine, and we lightly clinked them together.
“Well done,” I said with a grin. “You made it to today’s finish line. You win the prize.”
The flurry of activity at the end of each long day is enough to drive one to drinking…if I really thought that drinking would help. By the time we get home from evening practices, get everyone fed and showered, and then go through the rigamarole of getting them all in bed (and getting them to stay there), we’re exhausted.
Glennon Melton likens it to a game of whack-a-mole, and she’s not too far off.
Another drink of water? Whack!
Your stomach feels funny? Whack!
You just remembered you have homework due tomorrow? Whack!
Your toe hurts? Whack!
By the time the dust finally settles and the house quiets down, we are utterly spent. I’d love to tell you that we spend those last quiet hours of our evenings finishing up the day’s work, or reading rich books, but usually we’re so busy trying to recover from the trauma of bedtime that we find ourselves staring numbly at a wall.
Going to bed at night feels like a prize. I climb into my warm, soft sheets, and they greet me with a holy kiss. As I lay my head on my pillow, I hear it whisper, “Well done.”
Last night, Lee and I leaned our heads back on the couch after a particularly long evening (so. much. noise.), and we let loose a collective sigh.
“You think when we’re sixty-five we’ll look back on this and miss it?” he asked.
“Maybe,” I answered. “But probably not.”
Everyone tells you to enjoy it now because you’ll miss it. “You’ll miss the noise and the chaos when they’re all out of the house,” they say, but sometimes I’m not so sure. Maybe I will. But what if I don’t? What if I relish those quiet evening hours when they belong to me again?
Can I share with you one of the things that gets me through the never ending bedtime routines? (I hope you said yes because I fully intend on sharing it.)
I dream of the day when the children are all grown and out of the house.
In those future evenings, Lee and I will sit in our quiet house and perhaps we’ll feel a pang of longing for those bygone, hectic days. Maybe we’ll find ourselves blinking back tears as we remember her wanting to practice her recorder one last time at 8:30 pm, while he asks how to find the surface area of a cube, and the toddler screams in her bed, and the other boy wants to play indoor soccer with a hacky sack.
We’ll be past all of that, and maybe the silence will feel deafening. But then the phone will ring, and it will be one of our adult children, and in the background we’ll hear the screeching sounds of a recorder, and a basketball bouncing against the tile floor. There will be a baby crying, a dog barking, children bickering. All the sounds will greet our ears and we’ll duck our heads, the vestiges of parenting PTSD still lingering.
“This is so hard!” the grown child will tell us. “They won’t go to bed and I’m exhausted.”
We’ll nod and offer a few sympathetic words of encouragement, and then we’ll hang up the phone and look at one another with a smile.
“We did it,” I’ll say to him. “We did our time and paid our dues, and we won the prize.”
Then we’ll laugh maniacally on our couch inside our clean, quiet house.
Sometimes the only thing getting me through the endless bedtime hours is the promise that I won’t have to do this forever.
So it is with full acknowledgement that I come to you and tell you to hang in there. Every time you make it back to your bed, you’ve won the prize. That day’s game is through, and you’re on the other side.
And when it’s all said and done, your chicks having flown from the nest, you’ll sink into your soft, warm bed with the silence of the evening pushing in at you from all sides. Maybe the silence will hurt a little. Maybe it’ll bring a pang of longing, of nostalgia for the days when bustling life spilled through the room.
But it may also bring a pang of relief, and that’s okay, too. Because you made it. And as you lay your head on your pillow it will greet you with a holy kiss and whisper gently in your ear: