Some days, the clock strikes 4:00, and I'm not sure where I'm going to get the energy to make it to my bedtime. Sometimes I make myself a coffee so I have an extra pep in my step, and sometimes I wing it.
Because dinner needs to be made, the kids need to eat, need to bathe, need to fall asleep. The house needs to be picked up a bit, I need to relax, my husband and I need to talk to each other and I need to practice self control by way of not staying up until midnight (or later!).
I get sucked into the busyness and craziness of these witching hours. And then the whirlwind of these nighttime tasks and activities is over.
And what's left is the 'before' and 'after.'
Before I can even get dinner going...in the late-afternoon rush of life, I feel like I'm doing all the things at the same time. I feel like my brain may explode.
Before we sit for dinner...there's a big milk spill, the wrong fork or the incorrect number of green beans.
Before we finish dinner...there's lots of coaxing to eat just a few more bites or dessert-for-vegetable-bites type deals made.
Before we clean up dinner...there's, well, more messes made that need cleaning. Why not add to the growing pile of crumbs on the floor, anyway?
Before we switch gears from dinner to bath time...there's some complaining happening about wanting to watch a show instead of washing up. There are patience levels that are running thin...
Before we finish bath time...there's some pushing/splashing/arguing/crying in the tub.
Before we go to bed...there's lots of time dedicated to picking those just right jams out. (Gotta look fresh for bed, right?)
Before we read our stories...there's lots of debate around which book would be best for tonight.
Before we say our goodnights...there's multiple requests—for water, to use the toilet and to find the 'right' stuffed animal.
Before you fall asleep...there's chatter and looking for stars and cuddles.
And, then there's the after.
After we put you guys to bed for the night...I miss you.
After I tiptoe out of the room...I doubt myself. I wonder if I did anything right today. If I gave you my best.
After I kiss your forehead...I forget any tantrum from the day, and I remember your sweetness.
After I shut your door behind me...I think about the way you cracked up at my silly joke and that big hug you gave me when I found your doll.
After I finally sit to eat dinner with your dad...we talk about how great you two are. How proud we are.
After I tidy up...I feel (somewhat) organized and together again.
After I relax and watch TV...I am recharged.
After I wash the day away from my face...I tell myself to wash away my mistakes, too.
After I check on you...I watch you sleeping peacefully and I count my blessings. I thank my lucky stars I have you in my life. I wonder why I lost my patience today.
After I fight the urge to stay up even later than I already have...I climb into bed and say goodnight to my husband.
After I lay my head on my pillow...I try to slow my brain and succumb to the peace and quiet.
The before's are often wild and crazy and yes—sometimes very draining. But the after's allow me to reflect, to practice gratitude and to be gentle on myself.
There is always a calm before and after the storm.
What I'm challenging myself to do now, is to be the calm during the storm, too.