Because sometimes bedtime takes forever … and it should.

by Kari on August 9, 2013


It all happened tonight.

Five minutes earlier we had been laughing. But now I pulled her blankets up, kissed her round, peach cheeks, and saw a flash of sadness and fear in her eyes.

“What is it, babygirl? What’s wrong?”

Her eyes filled, face twisting into that sadness, the kind we hold back, even as children, holding fear at bay but then something breaks the dam and it all floods forward.

She held her breath for a moment, the words spilled out: “I don’t want my teeth to fall out!” 

Tears streamed down her cheeks, her tiny body shaking with sobs, eyes shut in sadness.

“Oh sweetie! Your teeth won’t fall out! Why do you think they’ll fall out?” Whatever birthed this belief, clearly it was tormenting her.

She held her breath again, unable to say the words. I know that feelings, babygirl. Finally she spit out the truth: “Because I suck my thumb. Because I suck my thumb, my teeth are moving back and I’ll have to get braces and my teeth will fall out.”

I raised my eyebrows. Oh boy. Now I don’t know where she heard this, but let it be known that kids do take our words seriously, even when they seem to be ignoring us.

“Oh sweetie. Your teeth won’t fall out. And even if you have to get braces, that’s ok. But are you feeling like you’re ready to stop sucking your thumb?” She nodded, fear and hope mixed in her tears.

“Ok. That’s a great plan. I’ll snuggle you and we’ll play music and I’ll hold onto your hands to help you.” So we did this. But as with every meltdown, the issue is never the issue.  We snuggled, but the tears kept coming. Still, her body shook with sobs. Still she couldn’t get her breath to slow. Fifteen minutes turned to twenty, turned to thirty, turned to forty-five. I propped up on my elbow to look in her eyes. Sadness deeper than teeth issues. She finally spoke again, works choked out between sobs:

“I want to … remember … this night forever. And that other night …. when you snuggled me for a long time … I want to remember both nights forever, how you snuggled me.”

“Ok, yes. Let’s remember this forever.”

“And …” her voice caught in tears: “When I’m all grown up will you write down a list of all the things I did when I was little? So I can always remember?” I looked into her eyes, bewildered and suddenly caught by the significance of this question and the depth of understanding and emotion she was showing. I looked deep into her questioning, sad, hopeful eyes. 

“Yes! Of course, sweetie. I’ll write everything down, so we can remember together. When …” and now my voice caught, “When you’re all grown up.”

I leaned my face down, my wet cheek against hers. I can already see her at 14, tall with brown curls and muscular legs and still-round cheeks and laughing still, head thrown back, a wide-eyed wonderment. Will I still be here? Will she still be here? What will be different? What will I wish I had done? Will I have any regrets? Will I remember all the things she did “when she was little” so I can write them in a list? 

I couldn’t breathe.

I don’t know how long we lay there, her tiny body wrapped up in mine. But the summer evening sun turned to darkness and the air cooled, coming through the window. At some point she asked for daddy. Jeff joined us. Eventually she stilled, slept.

And it’s all so complex. Love. Parenting. Nurturing. Bedtime’s 7:30 but it was well past 9pm when I slid out from under those Hello Kitty covers and tiptoed back into our room. And silently I thanked God for enough margin in life to be there for her. Meltdowns aren’t marked on the schedule; tears are never timed well. But by the grace of God I resolve to be with my children as much as possible, to notice the flash of sadness in the eyes and wipe the tears and stay an hour longer than planned. She will be 14 and then 40. I will be here and then gone.

O Father, with all that is in us we ask: Help us love our children well.

{May your weekend we blessed. Thank you for reading.}


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