The air has been chilly these last couple weeks, and on this morning right around Christmas the boys were in the only pants they have (pajama pants) and three layers of shirts, and we kept on moving for this 2 mile loop to stay warm.
Almost every morning here, the white fog lies on the swamps after a long night of the heat rising from the mud and mangroves. Sometimes it lingers heavy through the mornings.
We found this place just about a month ago, and it’s only a few minutes away from our house, so we’ve gone almost every week. It’s flat and wooded, with empty river beds because we haven’t gotten much rain. We haven’t seen much wildlife because wherever we go the boys are either wildly excited or in the depths of despair, and both those things mean lots of noise, so as we walk loudly through the woods I imagine all the squirrels and the lizards in the undergrowth; the birds pausing in the trees, and then winging silently the other way. And the boys who are so loud come tromping through, looking frantically for wildlife.
The night Lincoln was born, he screamed the entire first night. And half the entire second night. A quarter each night the next week or so, and since then?
Last night, as I lay on the twin mattress that we have in their room for us, because that’s how often we end up in there, I faced facts. Sometimes it’s easier at 3am to see the truth, as if the darkness hides everything else and you’re left with only what is there. And here’s the truth: Eliot, my two year old, has slept through the night since a little over a year old, and Lincoln really never has. Oh, he’ll have a week where he will. Or he’ll have a week where he’ll only wake up once a night, and we have started to count that as sleeping through, in our heads, because it’s so much easier than it normally is. But he doesn’t.
And, thanks to Eliot, we know it’s not the fault of the parenting.
Somehow we’ve just ended up here, still tired in the Florida swamps, where if you had told me about this five years ago, I would have laughed, would have said that’s not possible, would have said still getting up with a four year old almost every night, usually multiple times a night, was a deal-breaker, a game changer, a thing that I would never allow to happen.
Yet here we are, letting go of our need to control a little bit, realizing we walk the paths we’re given. And switching off, taking turns, letting the other sleep in in the morning so we don’t both have to go through the next day in a fog of exhaustion, trying to make sure that each other’s heads stay clear and the only fog are the white swaths rising from the swamps.
We are in luck sometimes; one day a wild black boar and her two little baby pigs, running so frantically trying to keep up with their mother that their hooves barely touched the ground, crossed the path in front of us with a wild tromping, and disappeared so fast in the woods on the other side that we only had a couple seconds to glimpse them.
And some nights we really do get full nights of sleep: when nothing has changed for a while, when he’s not overtired, when he’s able to turn his mind off and finally able to relax.
But aside from that and aside from a few birds, the whole woods stop to listen to us, and we have stopped to listen to our boy, instead of the other way around.
And we’ve let expectations go a little bit, let our power go just a little, so as not to be the boys who stomp through the woods wondering why they never see any animals; we try not to go into the nights with pressure or expectations, because if there’s anything that can make Lincoln even more stressed and less likely to sleep, it’s our insistence that he must.
And it’s the way life happens, and it’s where we end up, in the blink of an eye, surrounded by the people who have chosen us, flirting with the fog, and so we’re just here, with midnight and 2am wakings, with white, lacey fungus outside and giant spider web snowflakes that only show up with the dew each morning, but which we must walk overtop of unknowingly all day.
You know, living this surprising life that we forget we are living some days.
Sometimes there are wild boars when we are least expecting it, and beauty in fallen pinecones, and Florida snow in the carefully haphazard spider web, in the circle fungus.
Sometimes the things we need don’t look anything like we think they will. Sometimes this happens even when we are loud, and looking in the wrong places, and trying to plan everything we know, and then it can remind us; leave a little space, keep a little silence.
Have a little room for something new to happen, and if it doesn’t, well, you’re still left with beauty. A little fog, a little boy, some tall, tall trees, and a spider web of dew.