I have always loved putting my child to bed. And not for the reasons that most people love to put their child to bed. Sure, I like a little quiet, adult time as much as the next parent but the detailed ritual of B’s bedtime has always been the sweetest part of my day.
Since B was a baby, I took a lot of time to unwind with him in the evening. When he was small enough to be in my lap, I would rock him for at least 30 minutes, sometimes even an hour. I would try to remember nursery songs, and always default to "Twinkle Twinkle." Those big brown eyes would fixate on me and I could feel my heart melting away.
At five, when he’s running away from me, naked and screaming, - “I don’t want a bath!” - he’s a little less sweet. But I still love our routine.
It takes us at least an hour to make our way to the bathroom, do the “Number 2 stuff,” take a quick bath (he won’t sit down, won’t play with bath toys, and insists that I only rinse his face once), run to the bedroom, naked, and detour through my room to hide, come out of hiding to pick out a pair of pajamas, struggle into pajamas, change mind about pajamas, pick a new pair, call Daddy to say good-night, convince me to bring a Zone Bar into bed (horrible, I know!), brush teeth, pick three books, change mind about two books and negotiate an additional book into the pile, read all of said books, have discussion about automatic nightlight and how long to stay in bed in the morning, and finally, settle in to a deep relaxed state with a long back rub. Truth be told, this entire ritual can take up to 90 minutes, sometimes longer.
I am always disappointed when I have to work late and miss out on bedtime. This happens more than I would like. My mom is perfectly capable and willing to deliver a similar bedtime experience but I have an empty feeling when I come home from work to find B’s door closed and to hear his deep and slumbering breathes (he can never stay awake long enough for me to come in and say a proper goodnight). Damn the work thing.
But being away for work several nights a week and having B go to his dad’s half the time makes me really appreciate those nights that I do have with him. Like tonight.
We started 90 minutes early so I could let him play all his funny 5-year-old games (otherwise known as stall techniques, toddler antics, etc), like pretending to hide (while naked, of course) and changing his mind 18 times about his pajama choice and his book selection. He even talked me into an extra book.
I took extra time in reading to him, explaining the story line of how the crocodile has a toothache and the mouse crawls into the croc’s mouth and extracts the tooth. B’s brown eyes lit up with surprise and shock; he then began to giggle.
Still laughing, we talked about the dog we visited with today.
He asked me, “Why didn’t we bring that dog home?”
To which I replied, “That’s a whole lot of dog!”
B about fell off the bed in hysterics over this answer. I began to scratch and massage his back.
After ten minutes, his eyes were closed and his little body moved closer to mine.
“B,” I said, “Here’s Great-Grandma’s blanket. Good night.”
He opened one big eye, looked at me, and said, “A whole lot of dog, Mommy.” The ends of his mouth turned up, just slightly.
Oh, how I love bedtime.