Marilee decided not to take a nap today. It went something like this:
"Mama," she says, under her covers, after her stories, after two songs, "I need to go poopy."
"Okay, kiddo. Call me when you're done."
"No! I need to go poopy in the baffroom." (By which she means, walk into the bathroom with my diaper on, keep the diaper on, and poop.)
"Nope. You're in your crib for your nap. Call me when you've pooped."
Three minutes later: "Mama! I'm all done!"
I don't need to give you any of the cleanup details.
And then, "Mama, I not sleepy."
"Marilee, I saw you yawning. I know you are sleepy."
(Internal monologue: and please remember that you didn't take a nap yesterday. I'm not ready for you to be all done napping. I have a deal with the gods of sleep that you will keep your nap until your third birthday, which is ten weeks away. Please please please go to sleep? There's a chapter I need to write, after all…)
"Okay. I will try, Mama."
I could offer you the back and forth, but it will be just as tedious for you to read as it was for me to live. The computer beckoned, with my plans both to draft the talk I'm giving in Richmond in two weeks and draft a chapter on forgiveness, in view. And in the background I could hear Marilee singing to the animals in her bed.
And a little voice asks me, What would it take for you to be grateful that Marilee didn't take a nap today?
What would it take?
The cynical side responds, it would take a glass of wine or the promise of a two week writing retreat in which my kids don't even notice I'm gone while I finish the manuscript or seven more hours to every day or . . .
And yet a part of me starts to soften. Because it's not just Marilee not napping today. It's the beginning of a season of my daughter awake in the afternoons. The beginning of a season that I could view as a loss of productivity and writing hours and email. Or the beginning of the last season I have just with her, my baby, before she moves on to math and reading and playdates and soccer and before I know it to BFFs and boyfriends.
I can't say I actually feel grateful. But I can say I hold that possibility, like a glowing ember of a fire that would otherwise go out forever, and I give it a soft breath, a tentative encouragement.
Maybe I could be grateful for this time.
I've been talking with William lately about turning his grumpiness into gratitude. He tends to notice all that is "unfair" in his life: that today he didn't get candy even though Marilee did, that Penny got to sit next to mom two times in a row at dinner and he never!, that he really really really needs to watch Wild Kratts or his head might just implode. But he's old enough now that sometimes I can get him out of the despair. We laugh about his grumpy dance (he tends to run in place like a cartoon character when bad news comes his way). I point out the things he can be grateful for. And, like his mother, there's a hint, a whisper, a gentle breath that gives me hope he will one day be able to move beyond pouts and shouts and tears to thank you.
Today, Marilee sits in her bed and reads books and sings to her babies for twenty minutes while I finish up a few emails. Then we look through photographs together for a collage I've been meaning to create. We start some laundry. We take a walk to her dad's office. And I say, "Marilee I love you."
And she says, "Mama. I love you. A whole lot."
Later, she slips on the floor, and I watch her go down and wait for the screams. Instead, she pops back up and gives a sheepish smile. "That was me falling down."
And, with her dad, I laugh and laugh and laugh so hard the tears stream down my cheeks.
Penny says, "Happy tears."
Maybe, just maybe, I'm grateful that my daughter didn't take a nap today.