Bedtime is hard at my house, not for my toddler, but for me.
It starts just after dinner time. I lift my toddler out of his high chair and wipe his chin clean. “Let’s play cars!” I suggest with gusto, “or sweep with your broom!” “No mama,” he responds, “’Alk!” he wants to get our evening routine going, to take our nightly stroll around the block. As I roll him along in his stroller he points out airplanes and birds, dogs and dandelions.
We stop to smell the flowers, to count the clouds in the sky, to watch the big kids riding bikes in their driveway.
When we get back to the yard we play for a few minutes, my boy lugs rocks across the yard in his wagon, I water the plants. When he starts to rub his eyes he parks his wagon in its spot, tucking the handle in just so, and heads towards the door. I try to lure him back, “Look buddy! A bunny rabbit! Do you want to keep playing? We can chase!” but he persists, knocking his little fist on the front door, ready to go in for the night.
As soon as the door opens he heads for the stairs and makes his way up, headed for his room. I know he’s going to gather his pajamas, his blanket and his books but still I try to convince him to play. On the stairs, I nudge him with my head, blow raspberries on the back of his knees; he giggles and dances but hurries on his way. In his room I pull out his favorite toys, and sometimes he stops to play—his puppets delight him for a few minutes, his stacking blocks for a few more, but soon, sooner than I’m ready for, he has his pajamas in his hands and is heading for the big bed, the spot where he gets ready for his days and his nights.
“Bat now” he asks, peering into the bathroom, after laying out his clothes “teeff please” he begs before I have the chance to get out his toothbrush. I drag out tooth-brushing with silly songs and try to make bath time last as long as possible. I splash, push his boats around on the water, and frequently hop in with him so we can blow bubbles and swim kick together. It’s not long after hitting the warm water though that he gets drowsy, “done” he says as he stands. “Just a few more minutes,” I beg, but he shakes his head and rubs his eyes, his knee is over the side of the tub and, before I can even wrap him up, he’s toddling towards his pajamas.
Putting on jammies is a game, my boy identifies his body parts and I cover them with kisses. I’d be happy to keep kissing him forever, but as soon as he’s dressed, he rolls over and points to his books. He always chooses a pile of books but, after just one or two, he takes my hand and begins to slide out of the bed. “Just one more?” I plead, “no mama” he yawns as he pulls me toward his room.
“Bed mama bed mama bed mama” he repeats as I lift him into the crib. He rolls around as I give him his kisses and he closes his eyes, play snoring and giggling as I sing our song and gently close the door behind me.
And then bedtime is over. I wait outside his door in case he calls for me but he rarely does. Some nights I peek back in barely a minute later and he’s already fast asleep.
I know that usually it’s the little ones that beg for 10 more minutes or one more book but, in my family, I’m the one who drags things out.
Evening time is so sweet, everyone is full and happy and sleepy and I have such difficulty letting the time end. Some babies get cranky or irritable when they’re tired, my son gets cuddly, silly and wild, he is playful and joyful and his little tummy and thick knees become irresistible as the sun goes down.
I went back to work when my baby was just 8 weeks old. He had been on this earth a mere 56 days before I handed him off, packed up my pump and walked out the door. I’ve always wanted to work and truly, I love my job, but it shook me to realize that I spent more time with my officemates than my own child. I struggled in those early weeks back at work to find my balance and figure out how I could be a competent mother and a competent worker at the same time. There was so much that someone else did for my son during the day, I wanted something that was just for us. Nursing was our mommy/baby lovefest time when he was little and it was that, his evening nursing session, that grew into the drawn-out, giggly bedtime routine we have today.
After my boy is asleep I go downstairs and clean up from dinner, I pack the diaper bag and lunches for tomorrow, I pay bills and work on projects. Often I sit down and put in a few more minutes or hours of work.
In the morning, we wake up and get dressed and rush out the door. I work all day and he plays in the care of his wonderful babysitter. And then the time comes for me to pick him up. I take him home, I feed him dinner, and we do it all over again, slowly, giggly, wonderfully.