It’s that time of day again.
You know, the time when mamas with young ones brace themselves.
It’s bedtime. It’s this day that we have to go there. It’s bath day.
Ok, yes, you caught me. We don’t bathe every day… or every other…
There is no humidity here. How dirty could they really be?
But, it’s time.
I laugh to myself remembering the words of my dear old friend. She voiced the complaints of our 7th child. Actually our hearts have more than that even… 7, 8, yes… even more than that. You know how it is when your love grows to that unexpected place of loving your friends’ children like your very own…
She chuckled over the phone,
He said that the Maddens only bathe once a week!
I told him that if we had 6 kids, we would be lucky to bathe that often.
I laughed aloud, knowing that the hustle and bustle in our home looks like madness to the naked eye. Only occasionally does a little one run through the house with high-pitched joy…
The tush disappearing around the corner.
It’s only madness… sometimes. Usually on bath night. (And, it is more often than one time a week… but it’s a good story for 11-year-old boys. Almost, bragging rights).
Tonight, is the night. And mama is solo. Bracing for impact.
The blur, the suds, the squealing, the shrieking, the it’s-my-towel, the filth running down drains, the smacking of towels intermingled giggles and wails.
Step two of my favorite time of day… brushing of teeth and brushing of wet, tangled, matted hair.
More squealing, shrieking… more myyyyyy-tooos-brush from an exhausted toddler.
More. More. More.
Usually the joy of bath time is followed by prayers with mama and ninja-fast lullabies and blanket tucking.
When is the last time I stopped to read you a story?
I thought to myself as I quickly gathered a disaster pile from the path I would tread in darkness to kiss sleeping heads.
It’s been too long.
I grabbed an old favorite. The Giving Tree. That story… that story could cover novels on what it means to be a mother. That book about giving and giving until there is nothing left to give… except for the last bit of yourself. The stump of you that is left. And you give it away. And you give it away. Because nothing makes you happier than giving every last ounce to the little ones who have no idea. Not yet.
To them. It’s a story about a tree. And a boy. That is ok for now. That is all it really needs to be for now. Just giving. And loving.
They will understand later. The giving and the loving.
Silence. Every little face riveted by Shel Silverstein’s words.
Every face… except for my oldest boy. My first-born. The one I bought this book for when he was 6-years-old.
He was quite riveted by something else entirely. His iPod.
When did that happen?
How did I miss that?
The young faces, melting into the warmth of sleepiness…
Please mama, one more.
Who can say no to that?
Ok, I’ll pick one more.
Another favorite. Guess How Much I Love You. I think we would go clear past that big old moon for these little ones. Clear to the moon and right past it into the space of something much more uncertain. A place just a little scarier… and more exhilarating… motherhood.
That place we think we can figure our because we have read books… because we have younger siblings and watched our own moms do it… because we started babysitting at age 11. That place we think we can figure out because we think we know love. But, we have no idea. Until we are there. And then, we have no idea where it will take us. I’ll take this over any ride into space. This place that puts us in the most uncomfortable space. The space of you. before. me.
I read the words of Big Nut Brown Hare and his Little Nut Brown Hare.
I get you.
I thought of that big old rabbit tucking his baby into a pile of leaves.
I get you.
Finding myself flanked by two with two on my lap. Baby sleeping. Big brother… tuned into his own space. Somewhere else in his thoughts. Ear buds tuning out the sound of familiar mama cadence as I read the words.
When did this happen?
My hand patting bottoms to bed. Night time kisses. Hugs. Whispered I-love-you’s.
You didn’t listen.
I whispered to my boy. This unknown space of growing up. When do we ever really prepare for this?
Mama, I’m sorry.
He smiled sheepishly.
I know those stories. I’ve heard them so many times.
I smiled and kissed his soft hair.
I know. I know.
Good night boys.
I love you.
Light switched dimmed the room to a memory.
Mama, I love you to moon and back.
That space. That space between a mama and her growing boy. In an instant… it filled. Love.
Just when you think they don’t hear you… just when you think they aren’t listening. Just when you think the space is growing too big, too far… just when you think they have forgotten. Just when you think that they might understand the giving… and the loving… sometime later.
They surprise you… and fill the space between.
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.