There are some nights when I wish I could wave a wand and find the kids fast asleep in bed. I am sure that I am not alone. L. is pretty good these days. The bedtime routine used to be an extraordinarily long, drawn-out affair, with lots of rituals thrown into the mix. By the end of it I was often too worn-out and sleepy myself to salvage much of the evening. Something happened when he turned eight, though, and then nine was even better and now at eleven the only struggle we have is with enforcing the "Power Down" rule at 8:00 each night. T. has a much shorter routine than L. had at her age, but it's a routine nonetheless. I still read to her each night, and each night we have "snuggle time" together in her bed. I cherish all of this so much. I'm not foolish enough to wish it away, even if my patience runs thin some nights, when I know I have a lot to do before I go to bed myself.
Our snuggle time is sometimes the only time she unburdens herself freely, without prompting. Worries and questions come forth, sometimes peppered in-between silly talk about this and that, and plans for the next day. We lie together, our heads touching on her pillow, and try and sort it all out.
The other night she asked me, "Mama, do you wish you had two sons?"
"Not at all," I answered. "I am so proud and so lucky to have a daughter."
There was a pause, in the dark. "But two sons would be nice," she said.
"No," I said again. "One son and one daughter is the best for me."
"Because mamas need daughters?"
"I needed you," I said. "I'm just so lucky."
Later, after talking a little about L.'s birthday, she asked me if I liked her bed.
"I love your bed. It's so comfy," I said. "I just love it."
"Do you like snuggling with me?"
"I wouldn't trade it for the world," I said, hugging her close.
"I was wondering..."
"When I get all grown-up and still want to sleep here in my bed, could I?"
I felt a little teary inside, melted around the edges. My mama heart knows this is a question all children ask, yet all children do grow those strong and stubborn wings and fly their nests in the end. You pinch yourself, wondering if it could be true, and if there ever really had been a time when all they wanted was to stay little, slipped into their butterfly print sheets at night. "Of course you can," I said. "But you know, you might get all grown up and get a place all of your own some day."
"Maybe," she said. "But I don't think so."
I looked out at her room from my spot in her bed, and imagined what she saw each night: her white dresser, that used to house a big poofy changing pad, where we set her when she was a baby. Now the top of it is littered with her favorite things: her rock collection, her dinosaur model, a kaleidoscope, her jewelry box where she keeps rocks and little notes and poems instead of jewelry. The room has always been a little too big for her, a little vast-seeming. She'll grow into one day, maybe, when she's long ago left all those childish things behind.
She'll forget that she wanted to stay there, in her room, in that same bed. It will be for the best, I know, that type of selective memory loss we all experience, of that Peter Pan moment we all have when we are children, and want to stay that way forever
I won't forget, though. I just know I won't.