Every night before I go to sleep, I tiptoe down the hall to check on my two sleeping sons. I tell myself I'm just making sure Craig is covered, and I'll just turn off the fan that Jamie likes while he falls asleep. In truth though, my boys don't need a middle of the night check. I just like looking at them.
During the day, with my brain in high gear, my interactions with the boys are underlaid with a running stream of thought. Even while I'm playing with them, I'm considering what to make for dinner, reminding myself of what we can't forget for school tomorrow, or struggling to remember how that sibling book said to handle constant quarreling. My husband and I often feel as if too much of what we say to our sons is preceded by, "Don't…", "Stop…", or "No…" The days speed by in a whirlwind of activity. I'm too distracted watching out for them to just appreciate them.
It's different in the quiet of the night. Before I go to bed, I turn on the light in the stairway and walk quietly down the hall, even shedding my slippers on the way, so as not to make a sound that might disturb them.
I enter Craig's room silently, being extra careful not to wake our light sleeper. In constant motion during the day, Craig has usually twisted around in his crib until his blankets are underneath him. I gently cover him again, so he'll be warm the rest of the night (though he'll probably be on top of the covers again moments after I leave). I lean on the crib rail and stare at his innocent face, with those adorable round cheeks that he'll soon outgrow. His small lips look perfect in the half-light, as he quietly breathes in and out.
Despite his light sleeping habit, I can't help myself. I lean into the crib and gently kiss his soft cheek. My heart swells, as I am awed by how perfect he is.
I tiptoe into Jamie's room and turn off his fan. Although he's a heavy sleeper who rarely moves during the night, I still rearrange his covers, making sure there are no limbs sticking out into the cool night air.
I stare at my oldest son's face, unable to believe how quickly six years have passed. It seems like he was just a baby, and now he's learning to read, playing soccer, and growing up too quickly. As I look at his peaceful face in sleep, though, he's still my baby, my first-born.
He looks so unconcerned about life's little bumps that are beginning to worry him during the daylight hours. Growing older, he's becoming more aware of the challenges inherent in everyday life. He's gradually losing that blissful ignorance of younger children, as they go through their days without a care in the world. He's now in first grade, with responsibilities and goals.
At night, asleep, his face shows no sign of any worries. Like his younger brother, he looks serene and flawless as I gaze at him. I lean down and softly kiss his forehead, murmuring that I love him. Sometimes, he stirs in his sleep, as if acknowledging my love.
I walk back down the hall to our own room, turning off the light as I go. My husband looks up from his book and asks, "Did you check on the boys?" "Yes," I sigh, "They're perfect." He smiles and says, "I know. I just checked on them a few minutes ago."