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.
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
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.
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.