Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's Time For Bed, Little Mouse, Little Mouse...

Since first grade started, my sweet six-year-old has a new habit: about 10 minutes after I make it downstairs after putting the kids to bed, she shows up in the kitchen (where I still have at least a half-hour's worth of work ahead - dishes, lunches, etc) and says, "I can't fall ASLEEP!" I end up walking her back upstairs, tucking her in, putting her covers over her ear (don't ask; it's one of her few quirks so I just go with it) and close her door. No big deal, right?

Wrong. It's been every couple of nights for a month now, and no matter how much my thighs thank her for the increased stair-climbing sessions, I'm pretty darn tired of putting kids to bed twice. So I told her that from now on, I'm only putting her to bed once. If she gets up after that, she's going to have to put herself back to bed. I'm off-duty after 7:30 PM. (Except of course for the ever-annoying reading logs. And packing lunches. And folding laundry. But I digress.)

Did my "get tough" plan work? Well, yes - as long as my husband isn't home yet. If she comes down and her daddy's there, all my hard work goes out the window. All she has to do is turn those big blue eyes up at her daddy, and he's carrying her back to bed. Part of me wants to say, "What are you DOING? I've worked hard to get my point across!" But the other part of me says, "So what? I said that I wouldn't put her back to bed. I never said NO ONE would go up with her!"

The bottom line is, she's only 6. And he's away from her all day long, usually arriving home after the children are asleep. So if he wants to walk upstairs with her, hear a little bit about her day, give her some extra cuddles and kisses, does it matter? Sure, she needs her rest. Yes, it's important for her to get in bed and stay there. But I suspect that her "I can't fall asleep" is more about needing a little more one-on-one attention after a long day away from home and less about being unable to fall asleep - or breaking the rules. And who am I, with my seemingly-arbitrary rules about bedtime, to take that time away from a daddy and his daughter?

There are times that I am waiting, desperately, for bedtime to come, days when I think, "I can't wait to get these kids in bed so that I can relax for a few minutes and have some peace and quiet." But lately, time seems to speed up. I look at pictures from just a few years ago and think, "Where did those babies go?" My oldest is starting to think about boys, wants to wear lipgloss to school, and gets mad when her dad wants to walk her to her classroom door. My baby doesn't need me to tie her shoes or brush her teeth anymore. They can shower alone, wipe themselves, unload a dishwasher. Gone are the days of total dependence on me - and I'm not sure I like it. It's gone too fast. I haven't appreciated it or enjoyed it enough.

Slacker Mom Says... don't rush the small stuff. Extra hugs, kisses, wiping noses and bottoms and faces - it'll be over all too fast. No mom ever regretted giving one more kiss, one more cuddle, one more "I love you!" before bedtime. But I can tell you this: I do regret every harsh word uttered in impatience, every "hurry up!" muttered as we tried to get under the covers "on time", every night where I rushed them into bed so I could get back downstairs to finish the dishes. I wish I'd let the dishes sit and told them one more story about my childhood, or read one more book, or that I'd sung their songs to them one extra time. Soon enough, no one will want me to read Goodnight Moon or Time For Bed, and I'll have plenty of time for dishes - and won't that be awful?

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