3… 2… 1…
As predicted. I halt my closure of the bedroom door. “Yes?”
“Does it hurt really bad to have a baby?”
It is past 10:00 pm, but my oldest is sitting up in bed, nearly piercing me with the curiosity in her eyes. I suppress a sigh and open the door a little wider.
“Well, yes, it kinda does. But at least you get to have a cute baby at the end of it.”
She hugs her knees. “It sounds scary. I’m afraid of it hurting.”
“Well, you shouldn’t have to worry about it for quite a few more years. And when you get to that point, maybe you won’t be quite so afraid of it anymore. I was scared when I was your age, too, but when I got old enough it didn’t seem so bad. At least not bad enough to make me decide not to have any babies.”
She grins. “Because it’s worth it, right?”
“Right. …Do you have any more questions?”
She shyly hides another smile. “No, that’s all. Goodnight, Mommy.”
This is about how most evenings end around here these days. When Daisy first started asking random questions every night, I have to admit, I did not always answer very patiently. By the time bedtime rolls around, I am usually quite ready for a break. The days tend to be filled with busyness and squabbles, often with Daddy out of town and unable to help with the second shift, and all I want is to get these kids settled and be alone for a while. They’ve had all day to ask me random questions…Why does she always choose now?
I think I can probably guess the answer (she has my undivided attention and no siblings threatening to interrupt at any moment), but really, I don’t think it matters. Regardless of her reasons, she is communicating something that feels significant to her at that moment, and I think it’s important to take some time to give her a decent answer.
First of all, it’s a great time for “teachable moments.” During this time just before bed, Daisy has had condensed discussions with my husband and I on topics ranging from science to philosophy to theology and back again. It’s pretty awesome that we don’t need to come up with something to teach her during these times…she just learns by employing her own curiosity!
But even more importantly, it’s a great time to build our relationship. A year or so ago, around the time this Q&A trend began, a lady at a mother’s Bible study shared something I won’t soon forget. She pointed out that bedtime can be one of the most crucial times of day to spend some time with your kids. Being at the end of the day, these are the moments they will have on their mind as they fall asleep…perhaps even as they wake up as well. If they are settled in bed most nights by a mother who is snippy and impatient to leave (as I can admittedly be sometimes!), it will likely leave them with a very different impression of their mother’s love than if the mother takes her time to listen.
Now, to be honest, there are many nights when I know I am simply not in the friendliest of moods, so when my husband is home, he will often take the bedtime duties (he is generally more patient with the nightly antics, and the girls in particular love his attention!). But when it’s my turn, I have come to expect and often even enjoy these brief exchanges with my oldest as I come to switch off her light. She has never been much of an affectionate person (nor am I), and at almost 10, goodnight hugs and kisses from Mom aren’t really the thing anymore. But she has always been extremely curious, and quality time seems to really speak to her. Not that conversations like the one above take much time, but I know it helps me to take a few moments to chat about something on my mind. I assume this is the case for her!
And as much as I may wish to guard my evening alone time, I hope that one day these discussions will wax long when needed, covering more and more topics that are close to her heart. My mom and I didn’t usually have these types of conversations at bedtime, but there were many heart-to-heart discussions with her that helped to form the path of my teen and young adult years. I hope the same may be true for Daisy, and that I can find more ways to connect with all my children in similar ways.
Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you build relationships with your children?
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; second image courtesy of Jessica Cole.