Life is changing. Quickly. I always knew it would.
These boys. They don’t stay little long.
Quiet bedtime routines are rare in a house of 3 boys. Bedtime used to be such a sweet, soothing time. It is no longer. They are older, bigger, rougher. But their hearts are still little, soft, and gentle.
I hear the loud footsteps before I see the boys. Giggling, chasing each other down the hall, as they tug back and forth their towel. Another sings and splashes loudly his favorite Christmas carol, with words he feels are a better fit. The volume is loud. Boys are loud. Closing my eyes, I take a deep breath and thank God they are healthy enough to be this loud, that I even have them at all.
Retreating quietly down the steps, I leave them to their wild play. I need to retreat from the chaos, steal a few minutes of peaceful calm so I can be gentle with them at their heart’s most tender time of the day.
I glance around the kitchen. It’s a mess. It’s ok. Deep breath. Banging, thumping, squeals echoing down the stairs. It’s time to reign them back in.
Slowly walking up the steps, I can hear them. “Here she comes, hurry.” Whizzes of little boys throwing dirty clothes into the basket, running to brush teeth, and leaping into bed. As I round the corner, my littlest has a beaming smile. He’s 4 but thinks he’s 9.
“Here’s my story.” He hands it to me. My shoulders drop as I reach for this old familiar book. This book that I received as a gift while pregnant with Jacob. This book that had my husband in complete sobs the first time he read it to our child.
Love You Forever
“No, Mom, that book makes me cry.” My eyes find his. This boy who wants to grow up yet doesn’t. This boy who still shares every tiny detail of his life with me.
“I know, it makes me cry too.”
Andrew is curled up in my lap like he does every night for his story. Zachary is nestled close into my side. And Jacob is across the room on his own bed with his own book in hand.
We read the account of this new baby and this mother who holds him and sings this song to him, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” I use the same sing-song voice I’ve used every time I’ve ever read this book. I swayed back and forth with Andrew in my lap like I’ve swayed my boys every time I’ve ever read this story.
We read the account of when the boy turned 2 and he drove his mama crazy. The older ones laughed, “Just like Andrew!” And Jacob gently lays his book aside and makes his way gradually closer.
Then we read when the boy was nine and Jacob shouted, “Just like me!” That mama rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And Jacob moved closer. Now he is perched on the bunk bed ladder peering down at us reading beneath him.
Then he was a teenager. Zachary chuckled at his strange friends and strange clothes. They no longer could see themselves in the story. But I could. And that mama rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Just like she always did.
The room was very quiet now as all 3 boys listened closely. They listened as the teenager grew into a man and moved away. We read how she picked up that grown man and rocked him back and forth. Andrew piped up, “Hey, he’s not a baby anymore. He’s a big man!”
Jacob was quiet. His face serious as he studied the picture of that mama, old and gray, rocking her great big boy.
Then she got sick and she needed her boy to take care of her. And he did what she had always done for him. He rocked her back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
And he carried the tradition on with his new baby daughter.
Even the smallest of traditions make a lasting impression. That mama sang a simple song as she rocked her baby. Yet it developed into so much more.
Traditions provide bonding opportunities. In a world that is chaotic and distracted, family traditions provide stability, acceptance, belonging. And love.
More than anything our little ones need to know they are loved.
And my 9-year-old boy, the one who is so much like I was as a child, this boy who in the last year has decided he doesn’t need to be read to, climbed into his bed and called out to me, “Hey mom, can you start reading to me every night again? I mean, I still like just reading to myself, but can you start reading to me again?”
“Of course. It’s always been my favorite thing to do with you.”
Traditions form a tight grip.