Holding On To Bedtime

My Daughter, Age 11

When I started this blog a year ago, I often found myself dwelling on the ways that my daughter was growing up. Although she had just turned eleven, I still believed that she was more child than teen. Then there were the moments when I would catch a glimpse of the teenager she was slowly turning into. These moments would force me to confront the heart-breaking fact that my baby was growing up faster than I was prepared for.

For the last year, I have attempted to prepare myself for the inevitable by forcing myself to become numb to the shock of seeing my daughter changing. To do this, I instead focused on the positives: watching Saturday Night Live with her on Saturday nights; enjoying many of the same shows, including Friday Night Lights; being able to leave her home with her brother for an hour while I am at the grocery store—all things I couldn’t do when she was younger. That’s why, when I do see a glimpse of my little girl appear from beneath this ever-changing creature, I feel an overwhelming need to grab hold of her—to hold onto that moment for just a little longer—never knowing if it will be the last time I see the little girl she used to be.

My Daughter, Age 12

More often than not, this appearance occurs in the evening, a little before bedtime. Although there is always plenty of room on the couch for both of us, my daughter inevitably ends up sitting right next to me. Before I realize it, she is leaning against me, her head resting on my shoulder—and if the computer isn’t on my lap—her hands encircling mine.

Unfortunately, not all nights are like this, and if I am in the middle of something—like writing this blog or just wasting time on the Internet—the closeness of her body makes me feel crowded. I will sometimes snap at her, telling her to give me some space. It isn’t until long after she is already in bed that I realize that I once again lost an opportunity to hold my daughter close. In my regret, I am left worrying that maybe the next night she will be the one telling me “to give her some space.”

The same is true at bedtime. We no longer have the rituals of her youth: reading a story (or two or three); lying down next to her until she falls asleep; or telling her stories from my childhood, each one ending with the words “one more.”

Today, the routine is much simpler. Lately, some nights, after she has gotten ready for bed and brushed her teeth, she comes back into the living room for a hug and a kiss goodnight—and nothing more. I’ll admit, I don’t mind that I don’t have to stop what I am doing—or that I don’t have to get up for the 283rd time that evening—just to tuck her in. Other nights, she will stand in the doorway, silently waiting for me to walk her to bed to tuck her in. Less often, she may even ask me to cuddle with her for “just a few minutes.”

The worst nights are those in which she heads off to bed without a word, not needing a hug or a kiss good night. It is on these nights that I usually find myself standing in her doorway, watching her as she sleeps, silently praying that tomorrow she would need me once again.

When I was a child and afraid of thunderstorms, I remember being told of a way to know whether the storm was getting closer or if it was going away. The trick is to count the seconds in between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder. If the number of seconds decreases in between each burst of lightning, the storm is getting closer. If, on the other hand, the seconds were to increase, the storm is moving further away.

I wish there were a similar correlation between bedtimes and growing up. If there were, I would be able to predict how much longer my daughter would be a child by the number of times per week she needed me at bedtime. As the number of times she barely says “good night” increases, I would know that the end is near. On the other hand, if the frequency of her needing to be tucked in suddenly increases, I’ll know that I can enjoy the child in her just a little longer.

Unfortunately, there is no way to actually predict just when unselfconscious silliness will be replaced by teen angst, or when constant questions will be replaced by indifference. I wish my advice for my daughter could be to stay my little girl for as long as possible, but I know that she would laugh—or roll her eyes—at the suggestion. Instead, I know that my advice should be for me—and it begins tonight when I’m done with this post. I will take advantage of each any every moment that my daughter wants to cuddle with me, chooses to sit right next to me, or asks me to tuck her in one more time.

My post will be hanging out with others here this week where you can check out some other great blogs.

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