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Screw Bedtime!

My bedtime routine leaves something to be desired.

I’m spending up to an hour each night sardined into my daughter’s twin bed (oh why, oh why didn’t I buy the double?) waiting for her to just pass out already.

This was not my idea. My kid claims she can’t fall asleep without a parent snuggled up beside her. Even after all the bathing, teeth brushing, hair detangling, story reading and stuffed animal choosing, she still needs help winding down in the form of made-up stories, “back scratchies” and the reassurance of my physical presence. Only then do the yawns start, her breathing deepens and she finally succumbs to sleep.

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The whole process — which involves much wiggling and the occasional elbow to my face as she tries to get comfortable — can feel endless, and I become keenly aware that I am not (a) having dinner with my husband, (b) enjoying some well-deserved personal time or (c) catching up on reality TV with a glass of wine.

So why do I keep doing it? Why not just say goodnight and shut the door? Because only in the quiet darkness will my daughter finally tell me what’s on her mind:

“Mama, I said unkind words to Emma today,” she’ll confess, out of the blue.

"Jake threw sand at me even when I told him not to,” she’ll admit, full of hurt.

“My teacher said ‘stop running’ and it made me upset,” she’ll confide, as though it’s been weighing on her heavily.

I’m being given a chance to listen, soothe and connect. How could I ever pass this up?

I’m not sure if it’s the stillness, or the dark — not being able to see my face, perhaps — that inspires this flood of information. By this point, it’s been six hours since I picked her up from preschool and got no response to my reflexive and pointless “How was your day?” But now I’ve hit it the motherload: all her thoughts and feelings and news. I’m being given a chance to listen, soothe and connect. So screw bedtime. How could I ever pass this up?

Frankly, I’m also a sucker for the snuggling. A sleepy kid is kind of like a sick one. You can just hold them and admire them and silently marvel, “Wow, I made this amazing little person” with a thoroughness that cannot be achieved when chasing a wild thing through the playground.

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Sometimes, after she’s fallen asleep and I’m free to make my escape, I linger anyway. It’s so peaceful, listening to her breathe. So peaceful that I wake up hours later, disoriented, in the wrong bed, with all my makeup on, teeth unbrushed, one prickly dead arm asleep and having missed the entire evening with my husband (unless it was his turn for bedtime, in which case he has missed the entire evening with me).

It’s not ideal. And I could put my foot down, but I won’t. Because this phase won’t last forever, and despite all of the annoyances, I know I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

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