We went through a season of life where every single winter, our home would be plagued with the stomach virus. It would hit one of us and we all just knew what was up; a miserable few days and nights of quarantine for our household. Especially when they were small, it made me nervous to leave the children in their beds alone when they were so ill. I wanted to be able to take their temperatures, offer a cold drink to ensure hydration, and just give a sense of peace to an insanely stressful stretch of time. As a result, the older two children, whenever they were sick, would sleep in the bed with just Mom, while Dad camped out on the couch. This happened many times over the years. Except it never happened for the youngest: Titus is almost six and has never thrown up. Ever.
I would love to say it is because we eat clean and take our daily vitamins and wash our hands regularly, but I would be lying to you. I believe it is the direct result of the classic third kid syndrome; by the time he joined our family, I had a three year old and a fifteen month old, so he’s eaten Lucky Charms every morning for the past several years and licked every shopping cart in Campbell County. He has built up this superhuman immunity to all things viral, to which his explanation is simple: “I’VE GOT THE POWER OF GOD INSIDE OF ME”, as his picks his nose, grabs the PS4 controller, then licks his fingers.
One day, however, it clicked: he has never been sick, so therefore, he’s never been able to sleep in the same bed as Mom. So every night, for months on end, he asked. He begged. He would gently pat my hair and say, “Please, just tonight. Please. Sleep in my bed. Please”. This was always at 8pm, after a long day of school, work, dance, supper, homework, and headaches. All I could think about was changing into my giant sweatpants and collapsing on the comforter. “I love you, sweetie, but I am just so tired”.
I feel like lately I live in a constant state of either distraction or exhaustion. I do not believe I have ever been so tired in my whole life.
About a month ago, we discovered that one of the hens had been sitting on a large number of eggs in the chicken coop in the backyard. We had been instructed by a wise neighbor to let her sit until around thirty-three days, and if they had not hatched by that time, we needed to dispose of the eggs. Around Day 31, I pulled into the driveway and watched that hen proudly escorting eleven chicks around the coop, almost as if she were giving them a tour of the place. As a result, however, they were able to examine every nook and cranny of the coop, finding small spots under the framework under which they could easily slip out unnoticed, bringing eleven chicks into the yard during the day unsupervised. The mother hen is too large to squeeze under such small spaces. But she figured out a way, when no one was looking, to keep watch on the kids.
I had slowly been lining spare slats of wood around the coop, hoping to contain them. Sadly, the other night I went out to check on the brood at nightfall. The mother was inside the coop with four of the chicks, while the reminder chirped loudly from the other side. I was scrambling to save them and place them back in with family, as the mother pecked and clawed at my hands to get to her babies. Once they were all fed through the fencing, I watched as every single chick fled to her, and she sat on all of them at once, hiding them from the world. The chirping and the chaos stopped abruptly. They were safe, asleep with their mother.
Over Easter weekend, I promised Titus I would sleep in his bed. Thrilled, he covered me with a small child’s blanket and tucked a stuffed monkey under my arm. I slept better that night than I can remember in a long time. When they all awoke to Donut Saturday, I heard the other two rustling (it is a Friday night tradition that my daughter pulls her mattress into her brothers’ shared room and watches a movie) and groggily stretching and heading to the kitchen for breakfast. Titus didn’t move, even after they begged him to join them. He leaned down and whispered in my ear, “I will be your protector. I know you love me. I know you are tired”.
I found out later from his brother that he refused to leave my side until I woke up. He was afraid if he abandoned his post that I would never sleep in his room again.
I often imagine how my kids will remember me at this point in our journey together. Will they remember a mother that was disinterested, tired, and distracted, or will they remember a mother that worked hard, loved her babies, and fought for their time together. If that meant reading a chapter book before bed, waiting on the elk trail for the last one up, or sharing a good night’s sleep together.
It will most likely be a combination of all of these things. Sometimes in winter, we are ill. And we are ill for many years. Then one day, we wake up. Spring is here, and we are fighting for the time we were apart.