I can remember thinking last May, just before his siblings came home for the summer, that With-a-Why was getting old fast and that he would soon outgrow one of my favourite bedtime rituals: reading books together. Oh, I think reading aloud is something that can be enjoyed at any age, but let's face it: most teenage boys do not think that snuggling with their mother at night while she reads aloud is the cool thing to do.
We don't have regular bedtime rituals in the summer. The kids go to sleep at crazy times. This year, they would stay up late jamming or playing cards, long after my husband and I had gone to bed, and in the morning, I'd find their sleeping bodies sprawled out in the living room, or sometimes in the boys' bedroom with an electric fan in the window. I missed reading aloud to With-a-Why, having that quiet time alone with him at the end of each day.
In the middle of August, my daughter moved into her off-campus apartment. Boy in Black's friends began saying goodbye as they all went back to college, and he moved into his dorm at the end of the month. Suddenly, evenings at our house were much quieter.
The day after Boy in Black moved out, as I was driving With-a-Why to his piano lesson, we began talking about school and fall and all the changes happening. The transition was a bit easier this year because we all knew what to expect. But still, it seemed a little sad to me that my kids were growing up so fast. With-a-Why had gotten tall over the summer, and his hair long. In his black band t-shirt, he looked more like a teenager than a little kid.
But then he shook his hair out of his eyes and said, "What book are we going to read next?"
"At bedtime, you mean?"
I was so pleased that he wanted to continue the ritual that I didn't even jump in with any suggestions. But he already had a plan.
"Have you ever read Watership Down?"
"I think you would like it."
So now that my youngest two are back in school, I get some quiet time each night with With-a-Why, snuggled next to him on the bed while I read aloud. He sleeps in my daughter's room while she's at college; a small, pretty room with a pink wall and a white bookshelf. It's crowded on the little bed because we have to make room for his stuffed animals, and often one or more of the cats. I read a chapter or two, and then we talk about the day. When I turn out the light, he puts his arms around me and falls asleep.
I know that these cosy evenings of him snuggled up against me won't last much longer; he's the fourth child, so I know what's coming. But right now, I am enjoying these moments at the end of the day when he is still, just for now, my little boy.