As is the way of all babies, Katie is growing much too quickly, and yet there are days when it seems my life has only ever consisted of foggy-headed mornings and vast piles of pint-sized laundry. Sleep, both mine and hers, has become the golden ticket, the holy grail, the long-sought after commodity in this household, something worthy of much work and coaxing to get there and much celebration when it finally happens.
She fights sleep, this baby girl does, fights it hard, for though her exhaustion is evident, what if she misses out on something? Why should she sleep when there is so much to discover, so much to learn, so many new connections being made in that brain of hers? She always succumbs, eventually, finally, but there are times when the battle is a long one.
Such was the case one night not so long ago, a night when Jonathan was away for the evening, leaving me in charge of the bedtime routine. We had followed all of the normal steps: a clean diaper and pajamas, a time to nurse, a bible story, a swaddle, some softly sung hymns, then the placing of an almost-asleep baby girl in her crib. Her head touched the mattress and her eyes flew open, searching for me in the darkened room. She found me and, though it was bedtime and her little body craved sleep, a grin lit her face and she began to coo, imploring me to stay, to talk with her, to play.
And so I stayed, stroking her head, singing to her as I willed her eyes to close. “Sleep,” I whispered between verses. “Sleep, sweet girl. It’s time to rest.” She looked up at me with round eyes and dimpled cheeks, and, not for the last time I’m sure, ignored my direct request. And so things continued.
An eternity passed. And then another. And then, miracles of miracles, her breathing slowed and her hands relaxed and she passed peacefully into dreamland.
As I crept out of her room, holding my breath until the door was firmly closed, it struck me: these sweet moments in a quiet nursery, singing my girl to sleep, stroking her tiny head, feeling her hand in mine? They are fleeting and they are brief and they last for such a short, short season. I had nothing more important to do, nowhere more pressing to be. Why the impatience, the hurry, the rush?
It is easy and normal in the day-to-day to look so far forward that I forget to enjoy the here-and-now. To get mired in the sleeplessness and the dirty diapers and the not-so-fun aspects of caring for an infant, and in so doing, lose sight of the sweet moments mixed in with the hard. To focus so hard on the finish line – the time when she will sleep through the night, or when she will be better able to entertain herself, or when she will have a more consistent schedule – that I lose sight of how beautiful a journey this is.
This moment, today, right now is what I’ve been given. May I have the wisdom and the perspective to enjoy the journey.
P.S. There are times, of course, when the path is so rocky, the road so difficult, that there is no enjoyment in the journey, that focusing on the finish line, remembering we are made for heaven, is the only way we can continue forward. Still, in my experience at least,there are often moments of joy even in the worst of times, though they be few and far between.