Goodnight to my child and goodbye to my patience
When I was a child I remember bedtime consisting of lights out and an exhausted “goodnight” from my parents. I was one of four children and can only imagine how long the days must have felt. Parents today are urged to practice a routine with bedtime. To have an order to the very tail end of the day and to ensure that the mindfulness we all strive for outlasts the sun shining in the sky. I was at a breakfast the other morning and a friend of mine commented that she hated bedtime, that she didn’t mind missing it at all. She had her mother (who lives with her) do it as often as possible. I have to admit that many mother’s I speak with feel a glimmer, or more, of this truth during the evening hours. That last push of bedtime can be compared to the last day of school before summer break. You feel checked out, over it and are ready for some freedom and downtime! I understand this from the deepest place of parenthood. I understand how sometimes those last 60 minutes of the day can feel like a battlefield filled with traps, unknown hurdles and surprise attacks. While I understand this and sympathize with this I ask of every parent out there to hear me out and to try to make bedtime a practice of patience, mindfulness and focus because our children need us in these precious final moments of each day.
Often times when I pick my daughter up from preschool and I inquire about her day I get something like “I don’t know” “I don’t remember” or “I don’t want to talk about it”. Because of both my professional and personal background I know what a terrible time post pickup is to question a child about their day. These moments of transition for children are harder than we as adults give them credit. Their minds are processing at the speed of light everything that just existed in their reality away from mom and dad and are easing into the idea of being back at home, the child, the sibling etc. Even though I know I am not likely to get an answer, I ask. I want her to know I care. It is not about the answer, it is about the effort I make to demonstrate my desire to understand all that she wants to share. Here is what I want you, parents to hear louder than anything else in this article; It is bedtime, the moments of chatting with my daughter after bath and brushing teeth, after getting in pajamas and picking out books that she begins to unravel the inner workings of her mind. I don’t have to ask, I don’t have to pry. I simply am there and I am holding her against me and the questions, comments, concerns and moments come spilling out.
I want to be clear that I have days when I would rather clean the entire house by hand than spend another routine driven evening asking over and over for my daughter to get in the bath, brush her teeth, brush her hair, hang up her towel, pick out clothes for the next day, come back please, stop doing that please, pick stories out or ask why are you sitting on the dog? It is these moments when mindfulness kicks in, when I remember all the nights I have spent with her snuggled up getting to share in her day and in her life at a time when she is ready to let me in. On those hard days (especially when my husband is out of town) when I am tired and burnt out and my patience is gone I try to remember the beauty that comes from pillow talk with my child. Moments when I can assist in the processing of her day and all the intricate elements that cause her to feel happy, scared, confused, alone, hurt, supported and influenced. I know that being a parent comes with hidden jobs which no-one talks about and exhaustion that is inconceivable before parenthood but I ask of you one more thing. Twenty minutes at the end of the day, to connect, to reflect and to support your child.
One day your child will no longer want or need you at the end of their day, they will push you away and need their own space. Children are supposed to grow away from us, when they are ready. As parents we can only do what we can do in the few short years they allow. I know the days are long, I know the minutes last forever but the years will pass us by at light speed and when you have just sent your child off for college and close your eyes in search of distant memories please know that the last 20 minutes of every day will build memories that will fill you will love and the peace of mind that you gave it your all, every day, every hour and every moment that you could. Last night while putting my daughter to bed she looked up at me and said “tonight can we talk instead of stories and songs?” Yes my child, tonight we can talk.
I am a mother, not a wizard. I share what is hard, what is scary and what is real. The rest I leave to you.