On the surface, I was a good parent last night. I made dinner, watched Phineas and Ferb with the kids ("In ancient Egypt, both men and women wore make-up!" "Oh, just like the 80s!"), I played firefighters with Kieran, I cleaned up the kitchen.
But underneath, I squirmed and chafed. I'd been writing in my head all day, all weekend. And now, at 6:00 on a Sunday night, I was ready to put aside the parenting and lose myself in words. I had so many ideas zooming around in my head, I wasn't even sure I could catch them anymore. They seemed to pick up speed with every passing moment.
Distracted. Outwardly present, inwardly remote. I missed sentences, replied absent-mindedly. The grilled cheese sandwiches ended up a little too brown.
And then it was bedtime. I've looked at this from every angle and tried all kinds of calculations, so trust me when I tell you - there is no quick way to put four kids to bed when solo parenting. It just takes time, and lots of it. Bubble bath giving, hair detangling, shower reminding, pajama zipping, teeth brushing, book reading, snuggle giving, hearts praying. It takes at least 90 minutes at my house, usually two plus hours.
By the time the little kids were asleep, it was after 10:00. I headed to the big kids room to pray, the finish line in sight. My pulse quickened. Almost there.
But when I walked into Natalie's room, I could sense she wanted to talk for a few minutes. There was nothing pressing; she just needed some one-on-one time without the constant interruptions that is life in a family of six. So we talked. And I listened. And she told me about the stories she makes up in her head to ease her way into dreamland. ("I really liked the time I imagined I was in the movie 'Sky High.' I was Will's sister, but Royal Pain had turned me into a back into a baby with the Pacifier after he was born, so I was his big sister and his little sister!") I prayed over her, a long prayer, thanking God for the blessing of her, asking God to give her an unquenchable appetite for goodness and grace and loving well, and I kissed my big girl good night, inhaling the heavy scent of her still-wet hair.
Then I walked down the dark hallway to Connor's room, where I found my 9-year-old on his top bunk, wearing an army hat and playing with his markers. Connor always wants to talk at night; it's my night-owl DNA he inherited, it feels hypocritical to be annoyed. So we talked too, and he read me many stories out of his new Big Nate books, always pleading, "Just one more, Mom! Just one more!" And then I prayed over Connor, thanking God for the gift of him, asking God to grow him into a strong warrior, who fights for justice and truth. He yawned just as I said, "Amen!" I said, "I love you, Connor" and walked out of his room with a smile.
Just as I suspected, I lost my words in the long trek to bed. The swirling ideas in my head faded and slipped away. I could see their shadows, but I couldn't reach them anymore.
And all of a sudden, I didn't care.
Welcome to The Parent 'Hood, a weekly blog round-up of all things parenting. I co-host this carnival every Monday , along with a rotating cast of some of my favorite blogging buddies, including but not limited to, (FriedOkra, Vita Familiae, To Think is To Create, Joy in this Journey, Lovefeast Table and O My Family). Post your link using the tool below, and your post will show up instantly on all the host blogs.
A few bits and pieces:
1. Today’s link-up will run from this morning through next Sunday night. A new link-up will start next Monday morning.
2. Link the unique URL of your parenting post, not the homepage of your blog. Otherwise, your parenting post will get buried under new content on your homepage and be hard to find when readers click through later in the week.
3. We ask that you please include a link somewhere in your post back to The Parent 'Hood, via this post or The Parent 'Hood welcome post on any of the other hosting blogs.
4. If you're on Twitter, hashtag Parent 'Hood posts with #TheParentHood.
5. Share your own posts and read and comment on other blogs. Any good 'hood is all about community, right? Read, comment and enjoy as you have time.