I don’t remember when they stopped asking.
It might have been a certain grade or distinct age. Or maybe it was a challenging phase…I don’t know.
But one day I realized my daughter hadn’t asked me to play on the floor with her in awhile and my son hadn’t wanted me to tuck him in bed. One day they just stopped –maybe because that’s what growing up looks like or maybe because a quick hug or kiss on the cheek was enough. I’m not sure, I just know they stopped asking.
That doesn’t mean I stopped showing up or inviting myself in –at their door, in their world, trying to tuck that nearly 6ft boy into his bed or tapping at my teen daughter’s door with chocolate and a warm mug of her favorite drink. Oh, they can’t get rid of me that easy. And they always, always open the door.
So their invitations didn’t stop altogether, they just changed. I had to look a little harder for their signals, I had to talk a lot less and listen more. I had to invite myself in. I just kept showing up–and I still do.
But things changed and somehow I feel like maybe I missed a small part of it. Mostly because I didn’t miss it until I couldn’t find it.
Or maybe that’s the way life is–we live never knowing if this moment will be our last.
My youngest is a new 9 year old. She still lines up her Shopkins and pretends. She still dresses dolls and asks me to imagine and play. I’m terrible at it. I’ve never been that parent. She still asks us to put her to bed, to read to her, to scratch her back and talk.
And I know in my gut, it’s just a matter of time: She will trade toys for technology and My Friends Legos for makeup and she will stop asking me into her world. And then I will work hard to find the right key that lets me in on her terms.
As I sat down to write these thoughts, I heard her little voice. I looked at the clock and it read 9:54 PM. I wondered if she was having a bad dream. “Mommy, I can’t go to sleep,” she called out.
“Honey, close your eyes and try,” I whispered loudly up the stairs.
“Mom?” she said my name with a hint of longing.
I waited. And then I went.
I crawled into bed next to her and her eyes popped open. “Can I lay with you?” I asked. She nodded and melted into me.
In a matter of minutes, her breathing deepened and her face took on the angelic glow of sleep. I thought about the day when she would stop asking. I thought about all the phases and stages of motherhood we grieve and celebrate-never knowing when new things will begin or old habits will end.
Moms of littles, I know we are busy and so very tired, and some days this is the last thing we want to do, but one day our children might just stop asking us to play with them or lay with them. One day–as crazy as it sounds–we will miss the invitation.
I rubbed her back and my fingers through her hair and I tried so hard to memorize the moment.
Because I have no idea if it will be my last.