"Mama!" I hear him yell from his bedroom; his need finding me, even though I'm downstairs in the kitchen cutting an apple for my older son.
"Mama!" He yells again and I roll my eyes. I've specifically told him not to call for me, that I will be there shortly.
Even at 6 years old, lying with him in bed at night is still a non-negotiable. I love it more than it annoys me, and I repeatedly remind myself that as his calling becomes more insistent.
I could enjoy relaxing with him more if I didn't feel anxious about also getting the other boys into bed. If I didn't hear the loud tick tock of the clock in my head, announcing with every beat that it's getting later and later; that I won't have any time for myself and my husband, that they will not get enough sleep, that they are stomping on my last nerve of patience and I might just snap, ruining a perfectly good day in the very last minutes.
I finish with the apple and trudge upstairs to my oldest son's room, where he is reading Tom Green and happy for the snack. I note that he is still fully dressed and the folded laundry he was supposed to put away is now strewn across the floor. I hold my tongue on both counts. I'm just too tired.
I stop in my middle guy's room to tell him to stop shooting basketballs and get in bed. He continues shooting so I tense, preparing for battle. "Just let me make this shot!" He bargains, sensing the imminent loss of his ball. I accept the plea bargain with a thankful sigh and head, finally, to my youngest son's room.
He's hiding under his covers, preparing to jump out and shout 'BOO!' He does it every night. I used to feign surprise, but now I just tousle his head. "Yeah, boo yourself."
"I wasn't supposed to call for you." He admits, "But I did."
"I heard you," I say, pushing a long, dark curl away from his face.
"But you took sooooo long," He complains.
"You were supposed to be relaxing. Come on, it's time for sleep."
I lay down and he nuzzles closer, unzipping the extra sweatshirt I'm always wearing because even in the house I'm cold, and tucks his little arms in and around me.
"Stay for 10 minutes." He coos, snuggling his face against my chest.
He still loves squishing into my boobs. Since he was 3, he's been trying to cop a feel.
"Two minutes." I whisper, feeling my insides go mushy at the soft curve of his cheek, the long lashes and pouty mouth. With his eyes closed, he still looks so much the baby and I tenderly kiss his fat cheek that's not as chubby as it used to be.
"Mama!" I hear my middle son yell. "Tickle!"
"One minute." I call out.
My baby automatically pulls me closer. "No, not yet."
I pet his head and kiss him again, knowing it's time to go, wanting to go, but afraid of the day he'll just let me, so we cling to each other a little more.
"Mama." I hear the voice of my oldest. "Come."
I really want them all to be sleeping. It's late. I'm tired. I want to relax and not fall asleep again tonight during an episode of Breaking Bad with my husband. But I can't stop myself from taking the moment to baby each one of them; to remind them that they're still little and special and mine.
I extract myself with gentle force. It's time to go.
There are still two more rooms to visit.
This essay was originally published on icescreammama.com