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Someday you'll know: A message to my kids
Amy Choate-Nielsen writes about how she visits her children as they sleep to tell them how much she loves them. - photo by Amy Choate-Nielsen
To my children: I have a secret.

You dont know, even though every night I whisper in your ears and hope my words lodge somewhere in your subconscious. You dont know why Im still sleeping when the sun rises every morning and you bound out of bed ready for another day, or where I go when you fall asleep you dont know my favorite place in the world.

Someday youll know.

Late afternoon is hard. Dinner time is hard. Bedtime is hard. Its like sprinting through the last three miles of a half marathon, when you dont have any energy left and youre just trying to stay upright. Just trying to get some food on the table. Just trying to keep the peace. Trying to get everyone's teeth brushed and flossed. Trying to get you all in bed so you can go to sleep. Trying to make it to the end without crashing in the gutter or smashing a wall.

Heres something you probably do know: Im not the best mom at 8:49 p.m. when you keep getting out of bed and tattling on each other, and you jump off of your beds and scream instead of going to sleep. Im not super nice when Im making dinner and youre raiding the pantry and asking me for pretzels and chocolate that will surely spoil your appetite. And I wouldnt win an award for the time I hollered at everyone for not cleaning up when I asked. You know all of that.

But do you know what happens after your eyes start to flutter and your head rests heavily on your pillow and your breath starts to sound like a series of contented sighs? When you are asleep, do you know where I go?

I go back to the dirty clothes and fragments of toys still strewn across the floor. I take a look around, at the three of you sleeping there, and I promise to do better tomorrow.

There is something to be said for having all three of you in the same, safe little space. Its funny that one of you would rather sleep on the floor of this outdated, slightly humid, sweaty-smelling room with everybody else than in your own clean, freshly painted, perfect place. I cant get you to change your mind, though, so I gave up trying. You like to be together. It makes you feel secure.

And it makes me feel secure, too, as my eyes adjust to this darkness and I look around at all of you, powerless against the peace that has filled your dreams. There is no screaming or fighting over toys or tattling or biting or teasing. In this half-light, I can see you as you really are thoughtful, innocent and pure.

This is my favorite place in the world.

I visit you individually. I scoot you closer to the wall when it looks like youre about to fall out of bed. I scoop up your blankets and turn them back around so they cover your toes and your hands, and I smooth your hair. You asked for 15 extra kisses at bedtime until I finally said no, but I kiss your cheek and tell you I love you. I tell you you are a phenomenal human being. That you make me happy and frustrated and Im sorry about those times I get frustrated. We can all do better tomorrow.

Then I move on to the next one. Youre crooked on the floor, crawled out from under your blankets, snoring with your mouth open. You sleep in such a way that you surrender all connection with the waking world, chomping your jaw, chewing some imaginary gum or delicious treat when I move you back to your pillow. A kiss, some words, and I move to the next one.

This one is surrounded by Carrot, the orange bunny; Blueberry, the blue bunny; and Sting Ray the stuffed animals he cant live without. You are the fiercest, and yet the most fragile. You are the one who cries at Disney movies and admit it without embarrassment. As I kiss you goodnight, you stir and mutter, I love you too, as you flip onto your other side and sleep harder.

You might not know that this is how I end my days with my own contented sighs, full of gratitude for you. And you might not know how many moms visit their children in their sleep, whispering the words they hope will be heard forever.

But someday, youll find yourself sneaking into a stinky room with toys all over the floor and kids in every bed, and youll know.

Someday, youll know.
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