Last night was one of those nights that’s more common than it is rare these days–I simply couldn’t make it out of work and home much before the girls’ bedtime. Just one more meeting. Just one more email. Just one more stupid 2 train that didn’t come until forever.
When I walked in, the girls raced towards me on wobbly legs, arms outstretched, screeching MOMMEEEEE breathlessly – always the happiest part of my day, cheesy and cliche though it may be. No sooner had I hugged them that Sage jammed a fist into her eye and my sitter declared that she was ready for bed.
This is the point where I’m supposed to tell you that I patiently helped them change into pajamas, combed their hair, read them three stories and kissed them all sweetly.
But I didn’t. I was tired too.
I was less patient than I would have liked to have been. I asked three times for them to get into jimjams themselves, each time with increasing annoyance. I told them that no, we didn’t have time to read a chapter book and that it was very late and we need to get into bed right this second.
It was partially true. But it wasn’t just for them.
Then the guilt strikes. I realize that I’d seen the girls for a whole hour in the morning, followed by…nothing. They’ve waited all day for me to get home and play with them, do something fun, hear about their days. But sometimes I just don’t have it in me. I don’t have the sweetness and the devotion and the patience for a long, drawn-out bedtime routine.
“We don’t have time for a book,” I told them, but seeing their disappointment I offered a compromise. “We have time for a song. Just one each. Who wants to start?”
Sage of course picked something I’ve never heard of, that had something to do with Shrek in the mud. Instead, I sang that Smashmouth song from the credits while they protested NO MOMMEEEEE NOT THAT ONE. I sang it anyway, off tune as always, and felt myself start to lighten up. I giggled with them. I allowed the fake protests to go on too long. There may have been tickling.
Next Thalia spent forever trying to figure out what her song would be while I volunteered the first bars of whatever popped into my mind – You Are My Sunshine. I Won’t Grow Up. Eat a Bowl of Cherries by Rhythm Child, from the previous day’s Kindiefest show. The Family Guy theme song. Every time they screeched NOOOOOO I feigned surprise: What? Not that one? But that’s my faaaaavorite!
Finally Thalia gave up and sang me some song she’s been learning at school with absolutely no tone or melody whatsoever, and I realized the poor thing has inherited my voice. It still sounded beautiful to me. I flipped on the nightlight, and tucked her in with only a few of the nightly protests. I stroked her back through the cover, but only for a minute. I watched her breathing steady and the day start to escape from her.
It all seemed like the easiest thing ever, kneeling by a toddler bed and singing songs and being silly with the people I love most in this world before kissing them off to sleep.
It wasn’t. That’s the secret we never tell.