My husband and I lay in the bed propped up on respective pillows. He played a game on his iPad, and I read a novel. We weren’t actively having a conversation, but we didn’t have to, not really. That’s the thing about being in love with your best friend. Some moments are spent in deep conversations while others may be passed with mindless, joking chatter. And still others go by in comfortable silence, not worrying what the other person is thinking, or if they love you enough. You can just be still, together, and not want to be anywhere else. That’s how I felt as I stole glances at the man I loved in between chapters, and perhaps his thoughts were the same as he turned to me and spoke my own feelings.
“This is nice, right?” He mused. “I can’t imagine anything better.”
I smiled back at him, and then we both laughed as our 5-year-old practiced making a snow angel in her sleep, successfully whapping my husband in the kidney.
“Even with them here.” He added with a grin.
The Family bed. Ahhh. Our three, that’s right, I said three, children had landed in our bed, and honestly, that’s how it was most nights. The oldest had slept with us since birth, the middle had made her way into our covers after age two, and the third one, the baby, she just followed suit. All three of our girls slept in our bed, and since we had sold our king bed, and as they grew taller, it proved to be a crowded sleeping situation. We could force them into their own beds, but we didn’t. It didn’t negatively affect our marriage bed, and we were in agreement that for now, this was what we loved. We couldn’t imagine not being so close to one another.
“It won’t be like this forever,” my husband added. “They won’t always want to be in our bed. Not much longer.”
Not much longer. The words echoed in my head. Sometimes when my toddler crawled into my arms at 3 a.m. I grimaced with longing for a good night’s, uninterrupted sleep. But then I’d remember, not much longer.
Sometimes when I got home from work I just wanted to be left alone. But as my 5-year-old crawled lovingly into my lap, unintentionally kicking me in the gut with her bony knee, I’d think, not much longer.
One day, they wouldn’t want to cuddle. They wouldn’t rush outside to meet me at the truck door when I pulled into the driveway. They wouldn’t require my kisses to make pain go away, or need my help reaching the tangles in the back of their hair.
When my 7-year-old said, “hey, Mom” for the seven-hundredth time, and all she wanted to say was, “I love you, Mom,” I’d especially remember, not much longer. One day she wouldn’t feel the need to say those words thirty times a day. And I’d miss it.
When my 5-year-old asked me to make her something else to eat, fifth meal, if you will, I’d think, not much longer. One day soon she’d stop asking every time. Then one day I’d realize she didn’t even need my help. I would wonder when was the last time I poured the milk or helped her with the toaster. I probably wouldn’t be able to say. It would just happen. The time of helping would pass, like all time seems to do, and I’d wish it had been longer. Just a little bit longer.
When my 2-year-old cried out “hold me” I’d hold her, by golly. I’d scoop her up, hold her close, and inhale the precious scent of watermelon, tear-free shampoo. I’d squeeze her little body tight, not missing the fact that she was growing by the day. And I’d think, not much longer.
The fights. Oh my goodness, the fights! The cries of “she hit me” or “she took my ______.” Although I honestly welcomed the fact that it was not much longer to continue, I dreaded the thought that it would be followed by silence. Silence is golden, but it’s also so silent. It lacks laughter and all the other cutesy things they say. The funny words where they mix up syllables or create mismatches you’ve never heard before. One day everything would be quite ordinary and uneventful. Or so I’ve heard.
One day I wouldn’t help reach high shelves, put on shoes, or find a favorite toy.
Not much longer.
One day I wouldn’t need to chase away fears, leave on a light, or wipe away scared tears.
Not much longer.
One day I wouldn’t say “hold still” while I painted tiny toes, braided blond hair, or cleaned a scraped knee.
Not much longer.
One day the advice would be done, the manners would be taught, and the lessons would be learned. Not much longer, and I’d be out of time to pass along the things I’d figured out along the way. Not much longer, and I would see what they had gleaned from me through the years.
Not much longer, and we’d fill out a first job application, take tours of college campuses, and even pick out a wedding dress.
Not much longer, and I would have all the room I required in my big bed. I’d stretch my legs out and long for littles’ laughter. I’d look at the man beside me, and I’d be proud to have him there, proud that I had invested so much into our relationship through it all, because not much longer and it would just be us. Bittersweet.