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Challenge: Bedtime Secrets

My body tells me I'm too old for this, but my heart tells me to hold on a little longer

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We stopped in at a run down motel during the middle of another long road trip. And while I had desperately wished for sleep, I knew it was unlikely.

And sure enough, my son's cries rang out just as I was settling in. And I knew we were in for a long night.

I lay in that rickety motel bed thinking “I’m too old for this.” These sleepless nights that drain every cell out of my brain and wreck me physically. My head throbbing from the weight of exhaustion, my body sore from the weight of a toddler and the inability to get comfortable.

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I’m too old for this. My mid-thirties body feeling at least 10 years older than it is.

I’m too old for this. These family trips where fatigue is relentless and a vacation feels like punishment.

As our week of vacation continued, this thought repeatedly crossed my mind. Each night I was called to share my too-small sleeping space with an ever-growing toddler. And while the warmth of my body seemed to put him at ease, the weight of his body almost broke mine. I lay there, my arm tingling as it threatened to go numb while my son's bobbly head pressed into it. My own head dangled off the pillow, my neck bent in a way I never knew possible. My back was twisted and sore under the pressure of the 35-pound being that lay sprawled over my body.

I was exhausted. And I was in pain.

But as I lay there in the darkness, the rest of my family snoring away in dreamland, I remembered that someday my son will be too old for this, too.

Too old to cry out to Mama in the night when he’s scared of his new surroundings.

Too old to be lifted out of bed, his head pressing into my shoulder as the feeling of safety quiets his urgent cries.

Too old for my body to curve perfectly around his as he drifts in and out of sleep.

Too old to rest comfortably in the arms of Mama when he wishes not to be alone.

Too old to cling to me as he chases adventure on his own.

So while my body tells me I’m too old for this, my heart tells me to hang on for a little longer. Because before long, it’s his heart that will pull away, his whole being telling him he’s too old for this, too.

And maybe that's the secret to surviving these sleepless nights – remembering our littles will one day outgrow the safety of our arms. Remembering these nights when they rest securely in our arms are short-lived. Remembering that we won't always be able to protect them in the comfort of a shared bed. Remembering the children who cry out desperately for us now will one day pull away as they create lives of their own.

Yes, I am too old for these long, sleepless nights with a child in my arms. But someday, he will be too. So I think I'll stay here just a little bit longer.

A version of this article was originally published at A Beautifully Burdened Life. Be sure to follow Jenny on Facebook for more on her incomplete family and imperfect motherhood.

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