I came back from a late church meeting last night a couple of hours after Laylee and Magoo should have been sleeping in their beds. I closed the door behind me and turned around to see Laylee at the top of the stairs grinning down at me in the last pair of footy jammas she owns, the fuzzy pink ones I can’t bear to part with yet, the ones that are 2 sizes too small.
My first thought was consistency. We’ve been really inconsistent this summer with bedtimes, snacks gone wild, discipline, and pretty much every aspect of parenting and family life. This week we’ve been really focusing on getting back into routines and teaching our kids that because we love them, we give them limits and now we’re finally gonna get back to actually holding them accountable to those limits.
So my first instinct when I saw her up out of bed was to say, “What do you think you’re doing? Bed. Now.” But I just couldn’t do it. Looking at her sweet face beaming down at me, I thought, “She just wants to greet me. How does she want me to respond? How would I want my mom to respond? What will she remember about me when she’s grown and gone?”
I let my face break into a very sincere grin and exclaimed, “Oh LAYLEE! I’m so glad you’re still awake! I’m so happy I get to see you before I go to bed.” I rushed up the stairs and gathered her in my arms and could feel her face squishing joyfully against my shoulder.
“Why don’t you head back to bed sweet pea?”
“Mom,” she whispered in my ear, “I’m making a copy of my Jesus book for Ellie. I’m working so hard and writing and drawing and do you wanna see it?”
I looked at the black pen on her freshly bathed face and hands and considered for a second. Again, my instinct was consistency. “She should already be asleep and she’s up coloring in her room. We have to get up really early for church and she’s covered in pen and if I go look at her picture, I’m encouraging her to disobey her dad and stay up late when she should be sleeping.”
Again I looked at her face, so eager to please, so excited about her project, not at all calculating or manipulative (Trust me. I know what those faces look like too.) and I told her to run quick and get her picture to show me.
She’s just beginning to really enjoy writing letters and she has latched on to this little tiny book and wanted to copy it for her friend. I was overcome with cuteness and sent her off to sleep. A few minutes later I walked by her room and saw her hunched under the nightlight, carefully transcribing. I remembered late night games and books read with flashlights under the covers and I smiled and left her to her fun.
The products of last night’s adventure were a snuggly and happy preschooler today who was patient with me when I did tell her she couldn’t do certain things, and this little book that’s sure to be a family treasure. Looking at the outrageously happy faces on the pictures she drew last night, I realized that love is the most important thing I need to be consistent about with my kids.