The best parts of the day are associated with bedtime.
I’ve heard people say that before, and found it incredibly irritating. I always thought, “If you didn’t want to be bothered with your kids, why’d you have them?”
Now, though, I think I rushed to judgment. It’s not just about having time for myself—though that’s definitely icing on the cake. No, naptime and bedtime are the best parts of the day for much better reasons.
It’s Julianna’s big, happy smile when she sees her bed. It’s reading books to the kids together. It’s Julianna’s tongue-out giggle, and Alex’s chirrupy, melodic one, when I read The Monster at the end of this Book in my silly Grover voice. It’s listening to Alex read to his sister—Brown Bear, The Bear Snores On, Ten Little Fingers—and laughing when she decides he’s better as an object for hugs and kisses than he is as a reader. It’s the way she bounces when she knows it’s time to “make them all hide,” and the way Alex wriggles with excitement at his “walking in the woods” story. It’s “Mommy, eat us all gone!” and little girl hugs and little boy kisses and the feel of warm, silky skin.
Sleepy time is reset time. It’s the part of the day when (usually) all the angst and rancor of power struggles gets checked at the door, and what’s left is cuddles and hugs and love. And quiet…don’t forget quiet! Sometimes we have to cool down into quiet. As I said in my last post, bedtime is very physical, what with toileting and tooth brushing and diaper changing…not to mention wrestling. But we always diminuendo into quiet in the end.
Any time Christian wakes up in the night, he has to go check on them. (I’ve never felt the same compulsion, probably because I spend so many nights staggering into their rooms half asleep—to nurse, or drive the boogeyman away, or whatever.) When Alex was a baby, Christian had to reassure himself that he was still breathing. But these days, the mid-night check has more to do with watching the kids sleep. Angelic, peaceful…usually. Once in a while I get paged to “come see how your daughter’s sleeping!” Lately Julianna’s taken to conking out with the baby clutched on her chest. The baby’s at least half as big as she is; she can barely get her arms around it, yet she’s holding onto it deep into the night. So cute. And then there was this gem from Alex, probably two years ago already:
Waking up time is wonderful, too. Soft cheeks warmed by the pillow, chubby arms toasty from resting beneath the covers…ooh, so much to munch on! But even so, waking up is done gently in our house. Not like my mother, who I firmly believe took evil pleasure in tiptoeing into our rooms and yanking up the blackout shades in unison with a deafening chorus of “ROLL OUT THE BARRELS!”
At all other times of the day, I’m caught in a tug of war between housework and kids, teaching and fun, “me” time and play. But bedtime is sacred. The rush of tenderness surprises me at unpredictable moments, but never so consistently as at bedtime. There’s something so fragile and holy about children. At other times I may get distracted by the distinctly un-holy behaviors I’m trying to correct, but at bedtime I see my children’s true nature most clearly. Bedtime marks the passage of one day to the next, and of morning to afternoon, with a small taste of what God surely must feel for all his beautiful, holy, fragile, and wayward children.