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.

Blame

There are some things that my children do that bother me more than others, like when my daughter doesn’t put away the clothes I’ve painstakingly folded, or when my son brings each and every toy he owns into my bedroom but is then “too tired” to clean them up afterward. As annoying as these things are, they are still somehow bearable. Then there are those things that I have a hard time tolerating, like when my kids choose to blame anyone—but themselves—for things that have gone wrong. They even like to assign blame when none is needed, and more often than not, I am the focus of this negative attention.

A perfect example of this would be when my daughter is running late for school because she can’t find clean socks to wear, she blames me for not washing them. Is it really my job to go through her disastrous room in order to find her dirty socks? Or, when I ask my son to get dressed and he yells at me that I didn’t give him his clothes yet. I mean, he’s seven, isn’t he capable of picking out his own clothes? It seems that the list of things I get blamed for is endless.

Of course, as a mother, I already place this blame on myself—I just call it “guilt.” I believe that it’s a parent’s curse to feel guilty about everything, even when we shouldn’t. So, as I sit here and feel guilty about ignoring my blog once again, I’ve decided to take a page from my children’s playbook and cast blame on everyone and everything that has prevented me from publishing a single word.

  1. My Childrens Rooms In order to write, I need the space around me to be neat, not perfect, but free of excess clutter. Although I don’t actually write in either of their rooms, every time I walk past them, I feel overwhelmed by the incredible mess I see.  That being said, I don’t actually feel compelled to clean them, but I do include them on my mental list of all the things I need to do before I can sit down to write.
  2. Work I’ve worked for the same company for the last twelve years, and although I am lucky enough to work from home, I still have a job that owns my time for 8 hours each day. If only I didn’t have to worry about feeding and clothing my children, putting gas in my car, or paying any bills, I would have plenty of time to write.
  3. Spring Break Because I’ve had a lot going on with work recently, we decided to not to do anything special for spring break this year. When it finally arrived, I felt tremendously guilty about my decision. To alleviate this guilt, I overcompensated. From the moment I finished work each day, I was at the mercy of my children’s whims—from taking my daughter shopping at the mall, to hunting down a new Skylander for my son at Toys R Us—all in the hopes of making their break a little more memorable. Each night, when all of the running around was finally done, I was too exhausted to even turn on the computer.
  4. Alcohol With all of the endless running around, who could blame me for needing a glass of wine—or two—at the end of a long day. And, although wine may be good for creativity when tweeting, I don’t find it incredibly motivating when trying to write.
  5. The Internet Why is it that on the nights when I actually had the energy to turn on the computer, there was always something interesting to distract me: posts from fellow bloggers, Google alerts in my inbox, emails from friends, status updates on Facebook? It was as if the Internet was mocking my desire to capture my advice for my daughter, by tempting me with this or that—and I gave in each and every time.
  6. Shades of Grey Trilogy Five days of my life were lost within the pages of these books—that’s all I’m going to say about that.
  7. Photobooks by MyPublisher Once every six months or so, MyPublisher sends out a coupon code for a photobook with unlimited pages for only $35 dollars. Unfortunately, they only give you about a day and a half to create and submit it—so as soon as the email arrived, I had to get started. In the end, my “2011” photobook was 70 pages in length, and without the coupon it would have cost me $90.00. Who can blame me for thinking about nothing else during that time other than editing, cropping, and sorting images in order to take advantage of such an incredible offer?
  8. DragonVale I hesitate to include this on my list, as I don’t want anyone out there to be tempted to actually play this game—it is a huge time suck. At first, it was something for my son and I to do together—breed some dragons, collect some coins, compete in the colliseum—but then it turned into something more. Suddenly, every time I went to use the iPad for writing, I found myself checking on the dragons. I completely blame the creators of this game for preventing me from writing—wouldn’t you?
  9. Roku I cancelled cable recently in the hopes of saving some money and to attempt to watch less TV. I then purchased a device called “Roku” so that we could still watch TV via the Internet. What I didn’t know was that by subscribing to Netflix and HuluPlus, I was just opening myself up to a world of TV that I hadn’t known was out there—which leads me to #10.
  10. Friday Night Lights This is not a show that I was remotely interested in when it was on TV, as it focuses on three things I can’t exactly relate to—High School, Football, and Texas. For some unknown reason, when I saw the complete series on Netflix, I decided to give it a try. By the end of the first episode, I was completely hooked. Now, a few weeks and 70 episodes later, I am dreading the day—probably in the very near future—that the series will come to an end. Although this was probably the one thing that I blame the most for my not writing, I still think it was so worth it.

Well, there you have it, all the things that have prevented me from writing these last three weeks. And, although I still don’t like it when my kids blame me for things that I don’t deserve—nor would I advise them to cast blame in the future—I do feel better.