My baby sleeps, but my three-year-old does not.
Every night he wakes up perhaps ten times, often on very spurious grounds, and invites Ben and me to join him in his nighttime shenanigans. I need a wee! and a drink of milk! and a kiss! and a wee! and can I come in your bed? and please will you read to me? and you tuck me in! and I need a drink! and a wee! and I go back to bed now, but first I have a hug! and I kiss Daddy! And he pads back to his room, dispensing goodwill to everyone on the premises, before settling back down with his teddy and calling nightynight! cheerfully and loudly across the landing and sometimes waking up the previously sleeping baby, inducing despair in the pair of sleep-deprived adults whose genetic material somehow produced this ball of inexplicable energy and who just want to cobble together a couple of hours of shut-eye occasionally.
Sometimes I have no other wish than to be comatose for eight whole hours at a time. I don't need fine wines and beautiful clothes and a grand piano; all I require is a lickle west. And if by some miracle this ever happens, I will as a result become equipped with sufficient gumption to escort him firmly back to his bed and place him into it wordlessly as many times as it takes, and I might win the battle. But not right now. I'm too tired.
Occasionally, when this has happened over a period of several days, it reaches the point where I need to succumb to sleep at about 8.30pm for fear of turning murderous. But before that can happen, there's the day to get through. A stretch of ten relentless hours when every Mummymummymummymummy! my bridge is broken! you fix it! and howl of indignation, translated as I want that strawberry and I want it nowwwwwwww rubs like a cheesegrater on my exhausted nerves. I love my babies more than anything in the world, and sometimes they defeat me.
It's at these times, when I'm literally crawling towards the gorgeous moment when I can get into bed and slip dreamlessly under my feather duvet, that the tiny sanity-saving things in life seem to stand up and make themselves known. A bear hug from the same little boy who kept me up in the night. A toothy grin from the baby as he jumps off the bottom stair into my arms. A springy and fragrant mattress of clover in the damp back garden. A Skype connection with a close friend who listens to me and then makes me laugh hysterically. A positive and cheerful news item about Tom Daley's A grade in Spanish or Chad le Clos's prom date or a one-handed pianist graduating from the Royal College of Music. A cup of strong, fortifying tea, the colour of terracotta. A husband who brings home a tub of fudge ice-cream. A tantalising preview of my sister's wedding photos. Reminders of faith. Familiar music that evokes other happy times and dearly cherished people.
Somehow, at such moments, their significance seems greater than it might otherwise. They are lifelines, to be savoured and clung to and appreciated. They offer cheer and comfort and humour and beauty. They take my hand and help to guide me wearily towards the finishing line at the end of each day. They save me and encourage me. And I'm grateful in the midst of the exhaustion. Tiredly grateful for blessings and beacons and babies. Friendship and fudge ice-cream and faith and fragrance. Music and memories.