Putting a child to bed at a reasonable hour has never been my forte. Okay, it's at the bottom of the list, hovering slightly above ice sculpting and changing a flat tire. Admittedly, I am pitiful when it comes to the bedtime routine thing. Clearly, it represents for me yet another mommy arena in desperate need of improvement. That, and remembering to dab sunscreen on that little spot on the tops of their heads.
I suppose it's the chore-like feel of the whole rigmarole that gets to me. And the fact that I have to bark those tired old orders each and every night like some sort of tyrant: "Brush your teeth!" "Get your jammies on!" "Go to the bathroom!" "Don't drink so much water!" "Shut off that blasted television!" and "Quit fooling around in there and GO TO SLEEP!"
Quite frankly, I'm spent at that hour and I can't stand having to "work" when I'm already maxed-out on the exhaustion scale myself. But then again, mommies don't punch a time clock. Their shifts never truly end. And downtime is nothing but a myth -- unless, of course, you count the smidgen of time spent alone in the shower or those precious moments locked within the solitude of a closet, where the din cannot follow and where the world can wait until we're reunited with our marbles -- yet again.
So it is nothing short of remarkable when the nightly "change" finally occurs -- that indescribable transformation within me that takes place shortly after books are read, tuck-ins are complete and the Sandman officially arrives. Gone is the sense of urgency and frustration. Erased is the tension that once filled the air. Dulled and diluted is my shameful volatility, hissing like the air that leaves a balloon.
None of it matters now. My tiny bundles of energy and neediness are lost in the land of dreams. Sweet ones, I hope. No matter what the hour... no matter how sapped the day has made me... no matter how vehemently irked I am about the stringy clumps of Silly Putty forever welded to the carpet or the pinkish yogurt drippings, still clinging like sap to the edge of the coffee table -- I feel compelled to watch them as they sleep. Silent and still, at long last.
I tousle their hair, study their tender hands, now supple and yielding as they lay in mine, and soak up the trace of lavender bubble bath, lingering in those sun-streaked locks. Our breaths mingle intimately as I draw nearer to steal yet another goodnight kiss, awed by the peace washed over their faces and rugged little bodies. Even their pea-shaped toes are finally at rest, tucked snugly under their bottoms, which rise and fall with each restorative breath.
For me, each night's agenda is nearly the same: To try and commit to memory every minute detail imaginable -- to freeze the moment in time, so that I might return to it at will decades from now. The curve of their lips, their smallish frames, the feel of their skin, the warmth of their tiny fingers and the way their eyelashes lay like petals against their cheeks -- these are the things I want to remember. Not how their endless chatter, unbearable bickering matches and miles of raucous galloping over hill and dale drove me berserk the day before. And certainly not my ogre-ish bedtime routine. I'd like to erase that altogether -- or perhaps amend it.
Watching closely, I can't help but be reminded of how they used to be; and for a wistful moment I wish they were back -- needier than ever, scooching around the place, babbling on about whatever it is that babies babble on about. But I'm a realist at heart. I know I can't go back.
As a rule, I also push the rewind button to review the day's events -- trying to recall our special conversations and to remember the highlights: What we did, who we saw and where we went (if we happened to do or see or go anywhere, that is). And of course, I dwell on the mistakes I made as a parent and vow to be a better mommy tomorrow.
It's a promise worth keeping.
Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel