September. Back to routine and structure; back to reasonable bedtimes for kids and adults alike; back to resuming my role as the night cop: “Twenty-minute warning…. 10-minute warning… Five-minute warning… BEDTIME!” Then bracing myself for a litany of put-offs.

“One more snack… one more book… one more LEGO castle to build… one more sip of water… one more tinkle… one more snuggle… one more kiss. One more minute! Just one more!”

I give up my goal of washing the dinner dishes and sit on the kids’ polka-dotted rug, equal distance between their beds so neither complain of the other getting more of me. Maybe in five minutes I can slip out. Maybe I’ll watch something on Netflix or start the book that’s been on my nightstand for months. Maybe my husband and I will… maybe not. I’m asleep.

The struggle to shift back to a normal bedtime is real, thanks to those long days of July and August spent outside, the kids running wild, indulging in too many hot dogs, and too many s’mores, the adults enjoying too many summer ales. The evenings we’d forget about bedtime books and teeth to brush and sublimely let the rules dissolve into dusty pink sunsets. The nights spent in our meadow making fires, parading along our firefly path, playing night ball, doing long-exposure camera tricks with flashlights, camping with friends.

Photo by Dylan Griffin
Photo by Dylan Griffin

Then, under the black wide-open, the kids like caterpillars sit in sleeping bags on our laps, gazing at the light of dying stars until God knows what hour of the night. Silhouettes of bats darting overhead while ghost stories are clumsily told, punctuated by the howls of a coyote in the distance (or was it just the neighbor’s dog?).

The mornings, waking up in tents with the sun, unzipping the door to dewy grass or sometimes to the fall of rain and everyone’s a little tired, a little stiff, and a little worse for wear. Cranky kids with campfire-scented hair and bug-sprayed skin scratch constellations of mosquito bites on their limbs (because that all-natural stuff never really works), and beg for a 6 a.m. marshmallow. Then, slowly, making our way back to the house to pee because the woods are so yesterday and it’s easier to make coffee in a kitchen.

September. I awake drooling, my face in the rug, a polka-dotted imprint pressed into my cheek. The eldest is asleep but the youngest is lying in his bed, eyes wide toward the window. How long will this take? I still have dishes to do, and my own teeth to brush. I sit up from the bedroom floor with a kink in my back. My son points out the window.

“Look at the moon, mommy.”

Light years away from the nostalgia of a summer that’s passed, he’s mesmerized by tonight. I lean in, kiss his forehead and watch his eyes close. Finally. But I stay. I stay, watching him sleep because the damn dishes can wait. I want just one more minute of this, this moment… Just one more.

Photo by Dylan Griffin
Photo by Dylan Griffin
Photography by Dylan Griffin.