“I wonder if I’ll miss these moments, these requests for “one more hug and kiss,” “Two more hugs and kisses.” I could go in every time to make up for a lifetime of nights I’ll probably long to hear a request for “another hug and kiss,” But then I’d never get anything done.” – From my Mothering Pages 5/16/12
I wrote these words almost two years ago. When I read them again just yesterday, it occurred to me both how prophetic and relevant they are to today.
At three and a half, my daughter, suddenly decided that I was no longer “Mommy,” but “Mom.” And not just “Mom,” in the casual, “Hi, Mom,” sense, but more “Maaah-ahm,” in a tone of teenage superiority. She also decided that, “Stop it” was the proper way to begin any conversation and that aggressive-shadow kick boxing in my direction (or that of her brother) was the ideal way to respond to any perceived slight.
None of these new behaviors came as much of a surprise, just more spirit, tacked on to an already well-defined spirited personality (although I admit that the “promotion” to “Mom” stung a bit”). What was a surprise was the behaviors that disappeared. Gone were the spontaneous hugs in the morning, gone were the outstretched arms when I came home, gone was the easy reception of my affection.
I missed the affection. And the connection.
I realized that I needed to make some changes. Since my son was born, I have had less opportunity to spend time with my daughter one-on-one. Where I used to carry her, because, as I would tell her, it was so much easier to kiss her face; I now carry her brother. Where I used to rock her to sleep, I now nurse her brother. Where we used to bond over daily walks to the park; now there are three. But the one time I do have is bedtime.
Bedtime has long been a struggle for us. She wanting me to stay and sleep; me wanting to leave and enjoy the few precious moments I have to myself each day. She asking for “one more kiss and one more hug;” and me asking for her to understand that “Mommy needs Mommy Time now.” She continuing the happy playfulness of her day in her bed; me, spending most of our time together, counting down the songs until “Mommy” leaves to try to get her to settle down. Typically, before we reach the end of the third song, she’s snoring peacefully and I can tiptoe out to claim my own space in the day.
But lately, my escapist mentality has begun to feel wrong – not the least because of the few days she makes it well past the third song and I leave a sad, begging child in my wake as my sense of parental righteousness becomes guilt once I walk out the door – but more because I’ve started to ask myself – what is this “important stuff” that I have to do in the 15 minutes it would take me to lay with her while she sleeps? What is so urgent? What is more important than my child or more urgent than savoring the precious moments that I am still “Mommy?”
So I’ve stopped counting songs and reminding her to “calm down” that “it’s time to sleep.” I just lay down and listen to her sing her sleepy songs; to ask her questions, “Mommy, how did the mouse get lost?” To listen to her latest stories, “Ms. P. read the funniest book in school today.” To listen to the urges in my mind and my body to “get up and do something productive” and remind them that this is something, that this is important. To relish in the kisses and cuddles that don’t come so easily during the day. To cherish the fluttering of her eye lashes, the natural slowing of her breath, and to know that she falls to sleep every night secure in the arms, and love, of her mother.
Here is another inspiring post from The Orange Rhino about the restorative relationship benefits of a more conscious bedtime: An Intentionally Long Bedtime – The Orange Rhino