There is something about this precious in-between time. Hovering at the edge of daytime duties and the slow fall into sleep. Something you only truly appreciate when you have young children in the house 24/7, and are never ever alone. Those few short minutes when the entire house has gone to sleep, except for you.
It’s late. Exhaustion weighs me down. I know that my body is craving sleep. In the morning I’ll regret every second of missed slumber as I stumble through the motions of making breakfast in a fog of weariness. However my mind is also demanding what it needs. Space. Quiet. Time to just… breathe. Sometimes an unburdened moment of being instead of doing can replenish the soul more deeply than half an hour of unsettled slumber will help the weary body.
The apartment is silent. Apart from a dull roar of drunken conversation and thudding music from the ‘style over substance’ late-night cafe below. Then sirens blare and horns blast as the advance snow-clearing vehicle proceeds painfully slowly along the street – announcing to the world that there are cars parked on the wrong side of the road. It sits there, forever, until finally the culprit emerges to try and remove their vehicle before the expensive ticket is written. A short lull in activity follows. Now path-gritting machines chug by, followed by the grind and scrape of snow ploughs on the road.
Ok, so it’s not really silent. But there’s no child howling to be picked up. No screeching play that will descend into a ferocious brawl. No half-naked toddler waving a sodden cloth nappy at me whilst dangling precariously from a chair. No requests for food. Or water. Or bum-wiping. I sit in a chair instead of at the kitchen table. I can hold a book or laptop without grubby fingers reaching for it.
This is stolen time. Stolen from the pile of housework waiting to be done. From the freelance work with fast approaching deadlines. From paying bills, filling forms, planning meals and grocery lists. Scheduling playdates and appointments. Time stolen away from all that for the sheer indulgence of doing nothing of importance to anyone else.
This rare patch of time is for things like drinking hot tea. Eating slowly instead of racing to swallow mouthfuls while fetching extra toast and arguing with the toddler, who always thinks my plate of food should also be his. It’s for reading a page and not having to re-read it an hour later. For writing an email without being interrupted 157 times so that it reads like garbled text messages sent over a wild night.
Perhaps the tv is on… a chocolate bar unwrapped and waiting. A deep breath in. A slow sigh back out. A freshly brewed cup of tea raised for that anticipated first sip…
The wail of an angry toddler fills the night air.
I pause to gulp in one last breath… then it’s back to the nighttime parenting duties.