March 06, 2005


One of my evening chores is to put With-a-Why to bed. This means that I supervise while he brushes his teeth, and then I get in bed with him and read him a book. I've been reading him all the books from my own childhood. Of course, I find myself editing the text on occasion: "After the round-up, Paul felt like a real man. This was because in those days boys had the stupid idea that they had to do something macho in order to be a grown-up." With-a-Why can always tell when I've departed from the text. He'll look up and give me a quick smile.

When we are done with a chapter, I turn out the light. With-a-Why snuggles up to me, sometimes sleepily talking about his day. For some reason, he always chooses this late hour for confidences. Eventually, he puts his arms around me, leans his head against me, and falls asleep, his long black eyelashes curving but still.

Once I can tell he's sound asleep, I slip out of the bed into the harsh bright light of the hallway. Unfortunately, thirty minutes of snuggling a warm child underneath a down quilt on a night when I'm overtired, which is just about every night, leaves me in a hazy fog, half-asleep and unable to grade papers or do any kind of work that requires any sort of intellectual focus.

I've been a parent for almost nineteen years now, and I know there were times in the past when I resented the bedtime ritual, the way that it sapped me of any energy to accomplish anything past 8 pm in the evening. When I had several little kids, I can remember feeling just desperate for time to myself.

But With-a-Why is my last child, my youngest. I know how soon he will turn into a junior high student with shaggy hair who will want to stay up and send instant messages to girls in his class. I know how soon he will turn into a six-foot tall teenager who will want to stay up to practice his guitar. I know how quickly a baby of mine can turn into a poised, confident young person who will leave for college.

So I've found that my attitude has changed. I get no work done in the evening, and I don't care. I have only two or three years left, at the most, before With-a-Why will hit that growth spurt that will make him bigger than I am. So I am savoring the bedtime ritual. I know some day I will miss it.


Scrivener said...

I've still got a little while before mine outgrow the bedtime ritual, god I hope, but I am right with you on this one. There are definitely times where I wish they'd pick some shorter books or whatever, but I love snuggling with them in bed making funny voices as I read to them.

Now if I can just get them to start sleeping through the night again.

Phantom Scribbler said...

All those nice things I said about you yesterday, and what do you do today? Make me cry. I dread the day that LG stops needing me at bedtime. I know it's coming -- he's already left his security blankie and favorite stuffed animal behind. Destination: all grown up. No looking back.

(Now if only he felt that way about the goddam diapers...)

timna said...

ah, Jo(e) you said what I was thinking after reading Scrivener's post. Hold on, even if you're not getting enough sleep! Mine are getting big, but still want to cuddle sometimes. I know that the time is short.

What Now? said...

Jo(e), one of the things that I love about your life, at least as its described in your blog, is how balanced you seem to be, and how work doesn't take over everything. I've been trying to carve out time that's strictly for family and friends and other important parts of life that aren't work-related, but it's quite difficult. Reading your blog helps me to remember why it's worth the struggle. Thanks!

Friday Mom said...

Speaks Few Words frequently calls to me from his room right after he goes to bed. Most of the time, I'm in the office working on something that seems important to me, but his persistence pulls me away, and I head off to his room, where I find him with his speech computer in hand ready to "talk." The conversations vary from night to night. Sometimes we talk about what we had for lunch. Sometimes he blows me away with the stuff that's on his mind, stuff I'd never know if I didn't take the time away from work and listen in the quiet, vulnerable moments of bedtime.

Someday I'll learn to go without being coaxed. These are the moments I'll treasure forever.

jo(e) said...

What Now? -- Thanks for the compliment. Balance it the thing I strive for in life and often it's a struggle. Some would say, for instance, that I spent way too much time this week writing irrelevant comments on blogs ....

Cut-Rate Parasite said...

I know the tension you describe between wanting to spend time with the kids at night and hoping to get some work done, and think I've made the same decision as you without having realized it until reading this. Mine are 9 and 4, and they both want reading and singing (which is still amazing to me, since I only know the words to one song, but they never get tired of it) every night. Sometimes these nights seem long and unproductive, but the years seem very short when they go from being in constant need to being able to sleep over at friends' houses. The academy will still be pretty much the same in a few years, and the students never ever age, so this priority isn't that tough to figure out.

dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

I'm glad you can grab hold of your desires and leave the crap by the wayside.

By the way, what is the story with the name with-a-why? I've always assumed it was either a name that ends in Y or is a kid who asks "why?" about everything. I once tried to look through your archives for an explanation, but didn't find one. If there's not one, that's cool, too: I know who you're talking about.