I know you do this.
You wait until the kids are fast asleep - I mean out cold, you-could-lift-them-up-and-plonk-them-on-the-toilet-so-they-won’t-wet-the-bed-tonight-and-even-have-a-full-blown-conversation-about-whether-you-could-beat-Iggle-Piggle-in-an-arm-wrestling-contest, and STILL they do not rouse from slumber.
You wait till then, and then you do it.
I’m not talking about opening the wine (I know you do that w-a-y before they’ve gone to sleep) nor even about taking your secret stash of Galaxy out from the one place where the kids haven’t yet found it.
No. I’m talking about creeping into your kid's bedroom at night to watch them sleep.
Of course you do it; we all do.
There you stand in the inky darkness, holding your breath while your eyes adjust to the light, praying that your presence won’t wake them. (Because much as you love this moment of sacred silence, you’ll lose your sense of wonder pretty sharpish if their eyes pop open...)
Then, once you’ve breathed a sigh of relief at the fact that you haven’t disturbed them, you experience a full-body adrenaline rush and blood-running cold panic as you momentarily realise that you can’t actually SEE your child anywhere in their bed. Suddenly you couldn't care less about the risk of waking them - wherever the hell they are - as you start throwing cuddly toys around the room like a maniac, desperately hunting for you missing-in-action sleeping soldier.
You recover quickly - there they are - safely slumbering under the army of soft toys, arms and legs akimbo and chubby cheeks stuck fast to the pillow with drool.
Your baby - no matter what age they are.
And then it begins. You drink in the moment; the smell of their head, always the sweetest smell on earth to a Mama, but by some mystifying process made more delicious when they’re sleeping.
The sound of their breathing; slow, steady, methodical; matched to the exact rhythm of your heart.
The stillness of those little limbs, which never seem to stop moving even for a second during their many, many hours of wakefulness, several of which you spend watching the clock and counting down the hours till bedtime, though you’d never admit that out loud.
And as you sit there, perching on the end of the bed or peering over the edge of the cot, you wonder how your heart can contain so much affection for such a little being. It’s cheesy and cliched as hell, but you marvel that it doesn’t just blow up into a million tiny pieces at the all-consuming strength of emotion that you feel for the little life that never seems more wonderful than when it's sleeping.
Sometimes you let your mind wander over the fact that the day will come when you can’t do this; when this room will stand empty, long abandoned for adventures elsewhere. It makes your head spin, that you’ll ever not know where your child is sleeping, but that only serves to make you relish this moment all the more.
For a Mama of any age, there are few more satisfying thoughts that knowing that your babies are tucked up safely under your own roof at night. You try not to take that for granted; you know it can’t last forever.
And as you pick up the fallen soldiers from the soft toy army or tuck a lock of silky hair back behind an ear turned hot pink with tiredness, you breathe silent prayers, make quiet amends, and try to give expression to the thankfulness that this moment makes you feel.
I know you do this. And as you finish reading this, I know you’ll probably head straight for the door of a dark and quiet room where this perfect nightly ritual waits to soothe your soul and ease away all the frazzled moments of your motherhood.
And then? You’ll head for that glass of wine and the secret stash of chocolate. If only you can remember where you hid it...