Love, children and more coffee, please.

 Warning: Contents May Be Hot!

Last night, at 2:38am, I was watching Ricky trying to fall asleep. He was in our bed and doing whatever he could to stay awake. I watched as his eyes would slowly close and he would quickly open them in an effort to keep his parents awake. Paul and I have a strict rule of no children in our bedroom but, at 2:38am on a Monday morning, rules are less mandates and mere suggestions. At one point, he reached over and took hold of my arm which made his resolve falter and he drifted off. All the while that I watched his little face, I could see Paul falling asleep next to him.

          There are some things every man should know: when women are unable to sleep, the thoughts often go to the sappy and being hormonal is not confined to a few days for the monthly visitor. So here I am, under the influence of no sleep and an estrogen overdose watching my youngest and husband sleep with synchronized breathing. My first wistful thought was that at one point not too long ago, that big boy grew in my body. When you’re pregnant, the thought of the being growing inside of you is freaky and there is a little disconnect with the concept of baby and the jiffy pop belly you are sporting at the time. You don’t know the child but you have feelings for it despite the lack of introduction.

          The moment they are born and you put a face to the internal batterer, you fall in love. The first few months of your baby’s life are a whirlwind of excitement, fear, tears and holding your breath. Are you doing enough, feeding enough, holding enough or loving enough? Watching them sleep, the way I watched Ricky last night, is a daily thing. You watch them breathe just to make sure.

          But the initial feeling of falling in love wanes as you lose sleep and they become part of your daily routine. I am not saying that you fall out of love. What I am saying is that a parent moves into being in love with that sweet baby that is keeping you awake. Compared to when they were first born, it now takes effort to get up at 3 am to check on them one more time because they seemed just a little warm when you put them in bed.

          As they grow, the vow you made to never raise your voice or a hand to your child to help them cultivate a good self esteem falls to the need to discipline to raise a decent human being. No, drawing on the wall is not a crime unless the wall is a freeway overpass. No, taking another yogurt is not earth shattering but when Daddy/the Law says ‘no’, it means ‘no’. Does any of this mean you love them less? I believe that parents who don’t discipline have a romanticized view of kids and aren’t particularly in love with them. They are in love with being a parent, not with their child. It’s a pain to parent. You want to hug and squeeze them but sometimes they need to cry it out in time out. You want to protect them from all danger but they need to learn to be independent and fend for themselves.

          So this morning, my eldest is off to a state convention over 300 miles away, the middle is playing a video game and the youngest, who kept me up, keeps having me open and close a lunch box filled with toys. Each one testing my Mommy chops in their own way. It’s all good as long as the coffee holds out.

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