Why is it that my children don’t seem to need a snack or a drink of water or to use the bathroom until they are actually in bed with the lights off? It’s not like we don’t have structure around here. At 6:50 we start getting ready for bed. We take vitamins, drink a cup of milk, brush teeth, get in pajamas, use the bathroom, read a story, say a prayer, and turn out the lights. We have been doing the same thing every single night for longer than they can remember. I am sure they know what to expect. And yet somehow they need something after that light is off. A drink. The fan on. The fan off. Another trip to the bathroom. Different pajamas—these are too hot (or too cold or too itchy). It is after 8:00 by the time anyone is actually, truly, ready for bed. And then the questions.
Every night when she is supposed to be falling asleep, my darling little Ashley suddenly has an urgent question that has to be answered before the morning. Things like: “Is thirty-hundred a number?”
“Which is your favorite character in A Bug’s Life?”
“Do you have to get shots to go to New York?”
“What is 100 plus 100?”
“Does everyone have fat thighs or just us Willises?”
“Why do flashlights stay on when the power goes out?”
Part of me wants to refuse to answer, to tell her to just go to sleep. But I know what it feels like when you are trying to go to sleep and you have that nagging question (like, “Did I close the garage door?” Yes, I must have. Go to sleep. “But, what if I didn’t? I’d better get up and check.” No. Forget it. It’s fine. I close it every night. “There was the time you didn’t close it and the raccoons came in and ate the dog food.” All right, all right. I’ll check.)
So I answer her.
“Mom, what is perceder?”
“Perceder? You know. P-E-R-C-E-D-E-R.”
“I don’t know. Where did you read that?” I asked, imagining that if she could spell it, she must have seen the word somewhere.
“Nowhere. I just thought it up.”
The dogs used to come in the girls’ room when they were going to bed. Now they wait til the chaos dies down and everyone is actually settled. Then the dogs will go find a safe place on the floor between their two twin beds to lie down and spend the night, the ultimate Guardians of Peace. Me? When I go to bed, it takes exactly two-and-a-half minutes to brush and floss, another thirty seconds to remove my flip flops and fall into bed in my clothes. Another thirty seconds to argue with myself over whether or not I closed the garage and locked the door--and then get up and check and go back to bed. Then get up and send that email I forgot to answer. Plug my phone in to recharge. And finally, crawl into bed. As aggravating as that is, it does NOT take an hour and ten minutes. It takes a total of like six minutes. Max. If I’m really tired, I might skip the flossing. (Shhhh, don’t tell my hygienist.)
And then, of course, I lie awake for an hour questioning myself about everything I did all day: Was I patient enough with my kids? Did they feel loved at bedtime or rushed? Did I pay enough attention to their questions?
Oh dear. They get it from me.