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The Secret Reason I Love Bedtime

Erin Zammett Ruddy

There are obvious reasons to look forward to that time of day when you turn out the lights, say goodnight and close your kids’ doors for the next 10-12 hours (do I even need to list them?) but I also cherish bedtime for slightly less cynical reasons.

Contrary to what I write on this blog (particularly lately), I love my kids more than I can express. I think they are two of the funniest, sweetest, smartest most gorgeous little creatures I’ve ever met and my heart swells with pride and love several times a day. But throughout that same day, my heart pounds (in a bad way) and my blood boils as they display many of their other qualities (including but not limited to: whining, cursing, talking back, fighting, spilling milk, making loud inappropriate noises and pooping--a lot). More often than not, the good stuff gets eclipsed. But at bedtime, with all of the other stimuli gone and exhaustion setting in, that good stuff emerges again. I like to think this is who they really are. And I bask in it.

After baths and teeth brushing, Nick and I split up and each put one of the kids to bed (we switch off who gets which kid). It may be tough getting them in there some nights (particularly since it stays light so damn late), but once they’re behind closed doors with the lights dim and the books cracked, they know the drill. And unless we have somewhere to be, we take our time with them. It’s a part of the day for us all to slow down (something none of us does well), and enjoy each other—and the relative quiet—for a while. And, more importantly, to end an often-exasperating evening on a high note.

We read books, we talk about the books, we talk about our day, we talk about tomorrow, we talk about our friends and family and the dreams we want to have (Alex always wants to dream about Lionel Messi, his favorite soccer player; Nora about butterflies or boats). Before I put Nora in her crib I always hold her in my arms like a baby and sing songs to her ("My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean," which my Grandma Del used to sing to us as kids, is my go-to) and she looks up at me and smiles and watches my face. In that moment all the super-crazy shit she does washes away and she’s just my sweet little baby girl. Then she has me cover her with 15 different blankets and tuck in her animals and her baby dolls and she always needs to give me one more kiss and she asks who’s going to get her out of bed in the morning and sometimes she’ll say, “Is tomorrow a Bay Deli morning, mom?” Then she goes through all the people she loves. It’s sort of like our version of prayers.

The best part is listening to all the stuff they come up with. You can really learn a lot about your kids at bedtime. The other night when I told Nora it was time for her and Kitty (her stuffed cat) to close their eyes, she said, “Mom, Kitty can’t close her eyes, only Minnie can.” And she was right—Kitty is made with open eyes and Minnie is “nighttime Minnie” and her eyes are stitched shut. Pretty impressive, right? Last night it was my turn with Al and after we’d read a few books (Earth to Clunk is currently in high demand), we had this conversation:

Alex: “Mom, can you see with the white parts of your eyes? I think I can see with my white parts because I can see so much. Mom, why do bathrooms have mirrors? Mom, do crabs crawl sideways? Mom, remember when Grandma put jellybeans on the table at Easter dinner that wasn’t a very good idea was it? Mom, why do you keep saying Mmm hmm, can you say yes instead please? Mom, I saw a dead body at the Y today under the tree on my way to gym. Mom, I really love sleep and Nora really loves sleep, right? Do you love sleep, mom?”

Me: “Mmm hmm.”

(Yes, I will be asking his teachers about this dead body, which somehow I’m thinking was not actually there).

I know there are points in every parent’s life when bedtime feels exasperating. And we’ve been there. There were times when Nora was an infant and we were teaching her to fall asleep in her bed, I’d sit next to her bassinet in the dark with my hand on her belly for a good 40 minutes just waiting till I could tip toe out. And when Alex first moved to his big boy bed, the only way he’d let me leave him after endless books and chatting and 10 minutes of “two more minutes, mom” was to tell him I had to pee and I might wet his bed (yes, this is what I said and yes, it worked). And I’d be lying if I said there weren’t still plenty of nights when Nora doesn’t cooperate and kicks the books or wants to say goodnight to every appliance in our house or comes up with random requests that keep me running up and down the stairs (“not this Kitty, mom, the one with the blue collar!!!!). But we are in a place now where I am cherishing this time and not just for the obvious reasons which, don't me wrong, are still there. I’ve actually been coming out of their rooms lately with tears in my eyes (the good kind). I don’t know if it’s because Alex is going to kindergarten next year or because we’re probably not having any more kids or because I went a good two months where I rushed through books and goodnights because of the campaign, but right now, I am feeling very happy and sentimental at bedtime. Maybe it's because they both tell me they love me about 45 times and I tell them 46 times. Who doesn’t love that?