As the day winds down, I count the minutes - the seconds - until the kids' bedtime.
I made a promise to myself this morning, that I would spend the whole day engaged with the kids. I wouldn't try to clean the house, make jewelry orders, poke around on the internet, or shoo them away as I talk to friends on the phone.
Today I rooted myself firmly in the present, in their world, instead of asking them to cling to the fringes of mine.
Now it's 7:45pm, though, and the edginess is creeping in. I'm desperate for some alone time, and I can't wait until they are tucked into bed so I can curl up on the couch with my book and soak in the silence.
They wriggle into their jammies, brush teeth, and scrounge around for favorite stuffed animals and blankets. I read a story, fetch first one glass of water and then another, adjust the lighting to perfection, do a monster check, and give equal amounts of kisses and hugs. It's 8:30pm by the time I finally make it downstairs, exhausted.
I flop on the couch and crack open my book with a contented sigh. A mere thirty seconds later I hear crying, and Greta shouting, "Mooooom. Finn's crying, and I can't sleep!"
Greta falls silent, but Finn won't stop crying.
I storm up the stairs and angrily swing my head into their room, ready to pounce. Finn is sitting on his bed, his favorite stuffed swan tucked under one arm, and his worn-out blankie under the other, tears streaming down his cheeks.
"Momma?" he sniffs pitifully, "will you west wif me?"
I'm so tired and frustrated that I'm shaking, my heart iced over, immune to his tears. I close my eyes and count to five, and then I say, as calmly as I can, "It's late. You need to go to sleep, and I have things to do downstairs. Go to bed, Finn."
He hangs his head, sobbing silently. "So you won't west wif me? Just for a minute?"
But I don't want to! I don't want to, I don't want to, I don't want to!!!! my inner toddler screams. I was there for you ALL DAY and I'm TIRED. I just want to read my book! There's never any time for ME!
"I don't know," he sighs. "I just felt like I needed you."
"It's okay," I reply. "I'm here."
He nods silently, his eyes already closed. I run my fingertips up and down his spine, and he reaches around and curls his fingers around my other hand. His grip is warm and firm. The room is still; the only sound is Greta's soft snoring as she sleeps.
A few minutes later his grips loosens and his breathing slows. He is asleep.
I close my eyes, lay my head down next to his, and inhale his salty-sweet boy smell.
I silently add one more glittering tile to my new mosaic of memories, one that glows with soft blue, sun splashed yellow and warm pink.