Over the last few months my daughter, who is 7, has started asking that I snuggle with her at bedtime. This is by no means unusual; many kids do it. And unlike some kids, it's not a distraction technique designed to put off the inevitability of bedtime. Nor is it fear of the aloneness of sleep or monsters lurking under the bed. In fact, she's never had a problem with bedtime. This creature knows when she is ready for sleep and welcomes it. In her threes, she was quick to dismiss me once we were done with reading. "Go. Door," she'd command me. Unlike her brother, who sleeps with lights ablaze, this one likes to sleep in complete darkness with the door closed.
Truthfully, the whole evening routine and especially the last 5 to 10 minutes of it have always been a challenge for me. As a working Mom, I am already exhausted and lacking the requisite zen for serenely supervising baths and PJs and teeth brushing and all of that. I just want the whole thing to be over -- quickly. Fortunately, my kids are old enough that bath time is no longer about play -- it's all business. At least, that's how I view it. I want them in, washed and out. But, for them, it's how they unwind. I see how they drift off into the bubbles, into their imaginations. I find myself stuck between letting them immerse their bodies and brains -- and hustling them out of the tub.
The 10 minutes that then follow are, for me, truly the most aggravating and patience-testing. The process of toweling off and PJ-putting on, following by the inevitable shenanigans as they squabble over toothpaste and so on fairly drive me nuts. I admit that I often resort to threatening to remove everything that matters to them (him -- 3DS, her -- blankie) if they don't just get on with it.
Then there's the book reading. This is where I have always cheated, I confess. When they were toddlers and young'uns, I perfected the art of reading aloud -- with feeling -- while at the same time thinking about 74,937 other things that needed my attention. Fortunately now, my 7-year-old reads to me while my 9-year-old reads to himself.
But then come the words: "Will you snuggle with me, Mama?"
By this point, it's usually 8.30 p.m. and I've barely got an hour left of consciousness left in me during which to converse with my husband, catch up on work emails or watch TV. By 9.30 p.m., I'm toast. I want this hour of me-time. I need it. I struggle.
But snuggling with her is so... delicious. There in the dark we lie, nose to nose, our breath and warmth meshing. I stroke her hair. She touches my cheek. We whisper. Gradually, her breathing slows and deepens as she drifts off to the land of nod. It's an honor to witness this up close. That's if I don't fall asleep myself. More often than not, I wake up a few hours later and tiptoe out, foggily, my hair askew... and head straight to my own bed. (Note to parents suffering insomnia: Go snuggle with your kid and you'll soon be cocooned back to sleep.)
Admittedly, there are nights when I decline her request. After all, there are new episodes of House of Cards or Scandal or Mad Men to be binged. But I never regret it when I do snuggle with her. Emails can wait. Discussing the family schedule with my husband can wait. Frank Underwood, Olivia Pope and Don Draper can all wait.
She won't be 7 forever. She won't want to snuggle forever. Now are the snuggle with me years, and I intend to make the most of them.