To see my children off to sleep each night.
I was reminded of this fact when talking with a friend earlier in the week who is going through a challenging period of many nighttime wakings with her 14ish month old. I, too, went through that time. And one sanity-saver was knowing that it was worth it. It was my duty and my privilege to see my children off to sleep. And I was just one parent with one (or two, or more) baby walking the halls with her at night and all over the world there were other parents up like me, walking, tending, nursing, listening, cleaning up the puke and administering the ibuprofin and worrying and waiting and hugging and back-rubbing and...
Tonight, the younger needed cuddles and calming, having reached hysterics over a ... just one of those things when the world doesn't quite match her expectations and she lost it. So she needed not much talking, lots of cuddles and back rubbing, and a judicious application of doggy, who listens best to me so it was important that I was there to entice doggy into the bed. Dog is smarter than most humans and instantly read the situation right. She stretched out out next to the distraught girl, long dog, lacing her head over the top of her hip and in perfect range for much ear scratching by the 7 year old.
The 9 year old didn't need much tonight, but as we lay together, I learned more about his day than I could have through any other means. I heard about the hockey stick that broke today, the various theories as to the perpetrator's identity. Then more discussion where it becomes clear that there wasn't really a perpetrator, nobody was in trouble. And he played Apples to Apples. And the vocabulary test was pretty easy (and he got a 94% and I could reinforce the importance of the studying he had done with me and the 7 year old earlier in the week.) And he asked about the power outage during the day, and whether we had water during that time (we didn't, as we are on a private well.) So I explained that when the power goes out, the well doesn't pump, the house is out of water. Except for each toilet's one flush-worth of a tank, as well as the reverse osmosis tank, which led to a conversation about RO water and why we have that kind of water, and the kind of refrigerators where the water comes out the door, which we don't have, and how mommy wants one. And then he sang a song about coconuts.
You know, none of this was particularly earth-shattering. None of it was absolutely essential. If we went til tomorrow, the next day, the day after, and didn't talk about any of these things, it wouldn't have mattered in the slightest.
Except that it matters. It matters. And it's worth it.
Think of the power of that moment - when your body turns from wakefulness to sleep. For some (my darling husband, for example) that change happens in an instant, mere minutes after laying their heads down. For others of us, it comes later, after our brains process most everything we went through that day, or the ideas in our minds play out in a helter-skelter fast-forward, jumping from idea to idea, no logical sense other than the sense our brains need to prepare for the journey that is sleep.
And it is my duty, and my privilege, to accompany them on the start of that journey each night.