On nights when the husband is working late, I find myself putting two boys to bed. The littlest is easy – come 8pm, I nurse him and he dozes off pretty fast. Meanwhile, the three-year-old is sprawled next to me, watching videos on YouTube Kids (pretty much the only time he is allowed to do so!).

Once the baby is fast asleep, we tiptoe out of the bedroom and head into Aidan’s room. Once there, he would pull out his favourite Lego bricks and start fiddling with them. Like the other night, which was just like most nights.

“Build me a school bus, mummy,” he said as his fingers work furiously to pull apart pieces.

“Okay,” I replied as I started putting the bricks together.

He watched for a split second before exclaiming, “No! Not like that! I want a big bus.”

“I’m building a big bus,” I said.

“No! I show you, I show you.” (Three-year-olds are SOOOOOO bossy.)

We played for a while and then it was almost 9pm. Time to switch off the lights and go to bed. But of course my little man was not keen to sleep. He asked to read a book and I agreed. We cuddled up in bed, him nestled in the crook of my arm, and read a book together. It was his Disney magazine that night, which papa had bought for him when they went to the petrol kiosk together.

A few pages in, it was time to sleep. He jumped up and went to the light switch.

“One! Two! Three!” he shouted gleefully before turning off the lights. Then he bounced right back to bed and we had the most delightful conversation about everything and nothing.

“Goodnight mama,” he said.

I smiled in the darkness. “Goodnight…prata!”

He giggled. “No! Say my name.”

“Goodnight boo boo, I love you,” I said.

“Goodnight Aidan,” he replied. “Now you say your name.”

I laughed and said, “Goodnight mama.”

I laid on my side and he snuggled up with his back against me. I could hear his breaths slowing down, gradually. He was finally drifting off to sleep.

And then from the darkness, his little voice piped out breathily, “I love you.”

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And this is why I still put the boys to bed every night. Sure, it goes against all the common expert advice, which tells us to tuck our kids into bed and then leave them in the bedroom to fall asleep by themselves. Sure it takes up a lot of time, time that I can use for myself.

I tried, though. Right before Zac was born, I thought I really ought to sleep train Aidan so that I can have one less thing to worry about. I couldn’t go through it though.

And now I am pretty glad that I did not. Because I wouldn’t get the chance to cuddle and snuggle up to them, and kiss them silly. I wouldn’t be able to sniff at their little noggins and inhale in their baby scents. I wouldn’t be able to tell them that I love them, and have them say (or show, in Zac’s case) it back to me in their own ways and times. I wouldn’t be able to watch as their breaths deepen, as they flit off into dreamland. I wouldn’t be able to brush their hair away from their sweet faces, kiss them on their bouncy cheeks, and whisper, “goodnight darling, I love you” as they dream.

The days are long but the years are short – I keep that in mind, always.

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