I have a nightly routine, something that probably a lot of parents do: About an hour after I put my children to sleep, I check on them.
I tuck them in, kiss them on the head. Sometimes I look at them in the glimmer of our hallway light, still amazed that I’m their mom. Other times, I sigh a sigh of relief that my little terrors are finally asleep. But always, I feel a sense of relief. We’ve made it through another day, and my two preschoolers are asleep.
Only, recently, something went wrong: When I went to check in on my 2-year-old son, he wasn’t there.
At first, I thought he might be under the covers or hiding behind the pillows. But as I ripped off the comforter on my son’s new full-size bed, I was startled as I discovered he wasn’t there. I went into panic mode, checking behind the silk drapes, looking behind the rocking chair.
I started screaming out his name. But there was no response, which terrified me. Instantly images of “what ifs” flooded my mind. I knew he hadn’t left the room. I knew he was there — somewhere. What scared me was why my toddler wasn’t responding.
I was on the verge of tears when my 4-year-old daughter, who had been asleep, woke up and walked in her brother’s room along with my sleepy husband.
“Where’s brother?” my daughter asked. I could tell she saw the worry in my face.
It was at that moment that I lifted the bed’s skirt. There lay my sweet son, curled up under the narrow space under the bed, his face nestled against the shag carpet. He was sleeping soundly, surrounded by his toy trucks that he brought under the bed with him.
As I pulled him out and put him back in bed, he never woke up, only sleepily rolled over, his arm still clinging to a truck.
I broke down and prayed, thankful he was OK.
What I’ve realized as a parent is to always expect the unexpected. Just when an evening routine is monotonous, children always make things interesting. I’ve also discovered that mothers of preschoolers need nerves of steel and an extra set of eyes. My heart raced recently when I discovered both my kids had escaped through the front door and were nearly to the street, just because they wanted to “say hello” to a neighbor dog.
Mothers of young children also need a sense of humor. Stepping on small, pointy objects has become a fact of life. I’ve discovered that, whether stepping on a Barbie shoe or a Lego, it’s a better idea to always wear shoes around the house just to be safe.
I’ve also discovered that I need to buy stock in bleach pens and Scotchgard. My son has the habit of using the refrigerator as his “all you can eat buffet.” I’ve had a gallon of tea spilled on my new sofa. I also found strawberries transplanted to my silverware drawer. I keep finding Goldfish crackers scattered throughout my house because, apparently, my toddler likes to put them in the back of his toy dump truck.
But it’s the little things that make life interesting. It’s the little things I want to remember, long after my kids are grown. Perhaps then I’ll wish my son was still asleep under the bed with his toy trucks or that I was still finding crackers in my sheets.