I have never been grand at bedtimes. Most new mothers have these fond memories of gently placing a fresh diaper on their newborn, clothing them in soft pajamas and swaddling them in a plush blanket, while rocking them slowly back and forth in a glider while the baby drifts to sleep. My first child screamed in utter angst and anger any time I tried to rock her, and pushed my face away if I even thought about singing. (Side note: we sold that rocking chair after baby #2 was born. Sorry, baby #3). Needless to say, try as I may, tucking my kids into bed is not some magical moment. It is more of a “it’s been twelve hours, go brush your teeth, no you may not jump on your bed” affair. And everyone seems content with that fact. I mean, I remember tucking myself into bed at night and listening to the echo of my parents’ uncontrollable laughter at the newest episode of Seinfeld.
It’s bedtime. Just go to bed.
Yet, there was just something about my evenings that seemed unsettled to me, and as many Oreos as I consumed trying to uncover the clues, I simply could not figure it out. Despite that I am the worst mother on earth come bedtime, I cannot resist checking on each of them one more time before bed. One last glance to ensure that plush blanket from infancy that they still clutch in their slumber is covering their superhero pajamas. To watch their little chests rise and fall with each slow breath. To see the dim glow of the night light shine off their glazed, shiny eyelids. The more I watched them sleep, the more I fell in love with each of them. There were no harsh words said in regret, no cups of milk spilled, no “who let the dog in the house?” conversations. Just a mama watching her babies sleep.
So I came up with a reason, as if I needed one more to enter their rooms at midnight.
Now, after I tuck each of them into bed, say unacceptable language in my head when I step on a pile of Legos on the floor, and slowly begin to exit the room, they know that mama is coming back at midnight. That a “secret kiss” awaits, and that no matter what happened today, that tomorrow is fresh. And every night, after watching my kids sleep and breathe and all the other weird things that motherhood does to you, I lean over and boldly kiss those chubby kid cheeks and whisper in their ears, “secret kiss”.
And every morning, they smile and ask, “Mama? Did you give us a secret kiss last night?” And when I assure them that I did, they always exhale and say, “Good. I just wish I remembered”.
I just wish I remembered what it was like when you were small. When we didn’t have to worry about things like math, loose teeth, and broken bones and broken hearts. When it was just us, in mismatched clothes sprawled out in the floor on a Tuesday afternoon, stacking blocks and knocking them down again. And again. And again.
Or when we would run outside and play in the sprinklers in the warmest part of the summer afternoon, and everyone would pile up on the couch and watch a movie in place of naptime, yet each of you would drift off in your swimsuit anyway. Sometimes, I would too.
I just wish I remembered that there were days that our biggest expenditures were diapers, formula, car seats and playpens, and before we know it, it will be braces, cars, college, and weddings.
But no matter how small or how big you grow, no matter how many times I say brush your teeth and get in the bed, just know that a secret kiss awaits at midnight. That a new morning will dawn.
Because we all rest easier knowing someone is watching over us.