“Mom, I adore you.”

This from the mouth of my youngest baby who is somehow now seven-years-old. Of course, he still can’t pronounce his Rs and has a sweet lisp since he lost all four front teeth so it comes out, “I adowe you.” Be still my heart. 

He lay next to me in his spot in our bed (yes he has his own spot), finally quiet after a long day of all the things. His legs inexplicably long under the covers but his blankie is still tucked under his cheek.

Stay with me, Mommy, until I fall asleep?”

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There are tall kids waiting downstairs who need help with homework. And so many dinner dishes. And the overflowing pile of my own work. And of course a husband I have barely talked to today.

But I say yes.

I will always say yes.

It was only a few hours ago he was born, you see. Time is somehow on this crazy fast-forward track like the remote got stuck trying to find a future place in a movie and now this is just how we have to watch the whole thing, trying to pin down moments when we can. As I look at his siblings I realize he will be staying up later than me doing school work and watching The Office and Snapchatting his friends about 10 minutes from now.

But tonight he wants to lay with me. Just like his brother and sisters begged to just 10 minutes ago. I hear the echoes of their little voices even as they shut the doors to their bedrooms before they even say goodnight.

So I curl around him as he settles in. He throws his arm around my neck and cuddles up telling me random facts from his day as he always does. I know he’s ready to sleep when he starts gently tapping his fingers together. He’s been doing this since he was a baby. I know his patterns and breathing as well as my own.

When our house was full of littles, bedtime seemed to last forever. I rushed from kid to kid tucking in, reading books, getting new fresh water, and dreaming of the moment I would finally get to sit on the couch, no one touching me, the night finally my own. The exhaustion was complete and engulfing, propelling me to move faster and often making me short with my people.

And there was usually one holdout. One of the tribe who needed a little extra.

“Lay with me mama,” that child would say.

I both resisted and felt guilty doing just this. I was so tired. And the world was throwing around words like “Train them to sleep,” and “You’re crazy if you start this.” There was so much talk of kids who went to bed like champs who didn’t need so much of our tired selves at bedtime. And people made it sound so good and like such an accomplishment if you could just turn out the light and walk out the door. Their kids just went to sleep because it was time. No one needed to be near.

But not at my house. My people wanted someone by them. And in the end I gave in; I had to lay with them. Their sweet small selves and pleading eyes just sucked me right in. I think my mother’s heart knew even then it was all going so fast.

So I laid with them. I prayed my own need for sleep wouldn’t overtake me. I studied their sweet faces and soft cheeks and I waited for them to be still and for their breathing to slow. I’d lift up a little arm and if it fell back heavily to the bed I knew I could sneak back out to the light and resume my work.

My work was always there just where I left it. My kids were moving forward away from me even in their sleep.

And the truth is, the real work had been done in the act of laying by their sides . . . this sacred work of love. The work of quieting our busy in order to lay with them and love on them and take just a moment to appreciate that each of them was mine for just one moment.

So I will lay with my last baby as long as he wants me to; I am so blessed to be the one he wants. He is the last of my people to need me in this way, it’s just as achingly bittersweet as everyone told me it would be. And if I could press rewind (oh to press rewind!), I would go back to the days when each of these tall people was little and I would again linger next to their sides.  

I’d lay with them again and again.

For as long as they needed.

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Amy Betters-Midtvedt

Amy Betters-Midtvedt is a writer, educator, mom of 5 crazy kids, wife to a patient husband, and lover of Jesus. She writes along with her friend and former teaching partner Erin over at Hiding in the Closet With Coffee. Our mission is to help parents find sanity and joy, and we know sometimes joy is found hiding out in the closet with coffee, or hiding out on Facebook — come and join us both! You can read more about us here. You can also find us hiding out over at InstagramPinterest, and Twitter.