"Always kiss your children goodnight, even if they're already asleep." ~unknown
Toys are picked up and teeth are brushed, and Bethany pounces on me with a fierce victory hug because she triumphed over a difficult sleeve and got her pajamas on all by herself. A book is read or a story told while we all cuddle in a heap on the couch. Then they climb into their beds, and I get a quiet moment to sing and pray with each of them....
Bethany wants me to lie down beside her, so I do, and she wraps one little arm around my neck while she prays. With her other hand she twirls and twirls my hair, gently, and I don't know if she even realizes she's doing it. Her prayer is a fluid, rambling, earnest reflection of herself, and it blesses my heart so much. "Thank you for my Mummy, Jesus, and that she can sing to me. And once upon a time there was a girl...and that's not a prayer, that's a story, so can I tell a story to God? And I was a girl and I got an owie, and I had a band-aid so it didn't bleed. And thank you for...that we can sleep, and that I have a nice pretty night light, and that my Daddy can tickle me. One time I said mean things to Hannah, and she said mean things to me, and so please help us not to say mean things to each other. And thank you for my sisters that I can play with. Maybe someday I can be a kitty. Amen. The end." The little arm tightens around my neck and I could stay frozen in that moment forever.
Hannah has questions, so many questions. "If the sun shines on the moon at night, and that's how we see the moon, why can't we see the sun too? How is it hiding but still shining on the moon?" "Do you think there could ever be a real elephant that is only as big as a dog?" Every time I try to pull away with one more kiss, she stops me again with another question. "And Mummy? And Mummy? And Mummy?" Over and over she starts her questions that way, and then nods while she asks them as if to affirm that they are so pressing that they truly must be addressed right that moment, before another night time goes by without them answered. "And Mummy? Wouldn't it be funny if someone put a little baby into their crib, and then the little baby hopped back out and ran around the room and said, 'I can run even though I'm just a baby!', and it startled the people so much?" Keep asking your endless questions, precious girl, the serious ones and the so very silly ones. I love how your busy mind is always pondering something, and I love that you let me be a part of that with you.
Ashley whispers confidences into the dark as I stroke her hair...thoughts and hopes that pierce me with their maturity even while I rejoice in the sweetness of them. She tells me how she loves her sisters so much that she wants to call them her daughters, but she knows that it is special enough for them to be sisters. I quietly tell her that someday she may have her own daughters, and she whispers back seriously, "If I do, will you teach me how to take care of them?" With intensity even in her hushed voice she talks of her dream to become a vet when she grows up and how she can hardly wait for that to happen. "I will take good care of puppies because I love them." And she whispers earnestly to me about Jesus, and how she wants to show His love to her sisters by not fighting with them or being bossy but by "talking nicely and sharing with them so that they feel so happy inside, because Daddy told me that sharing God's love starts at home." And even though it is dark, I can hear the sincerity in her voice and I know it is reflected in her face and those deep, deep eyes with the beauty of womanhood all unknowing in them.
Oh my girls, I cherish these moments we have together in the quiet at the end of the day, just before you slip into the dreams that will carry you to morning.