Filch It Friday: Bedtime Rituals

Nutmeg is starting a new carnival/meme called Filch It Friday. 

Filchitflattened

The general idea is – I hope – that you take a post you like and, well, steal the idea.  This is right up my alley as I often find myself whining, "Why-oh-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?" while staring at my Google Reader.

So, I am going to filch Bumblebee Sweet Potato’s bedtime ritual post.  She wrote about rubbing Vaseline on her Potato’s hands while she’s asleep.  Go read it. It is very sweet.  I’ll be here when you get back.

When my boys were small, I, like every other mother I know, used to check on them before I went to sleep.  Above all, I listened for their breathing in the dark. I pulled covers up to their chins, turned off radios and lights, occasionally pulled a book from their hands. Then I would lean over, smooth any stray hair from their cheeks, give them a kiss and whisper,  "I love you just the way you are." 

It seemed important that I said this when they were asleep.  Of course, I told them I loved them just the way they were when they
were awake too, but there was something about them asleep, unaware and filterless, that gave me an almost talismanic feeling that me the message would settle straight into their hearts. 

I kept my little ritual a secret for a long time.  And then one night, Oldest stirred when I kissed him and when I whispered, "I love you just the way you are," he opened one eye.

"What?"

"Go to sleep," I whispered. 

"What did you say?" he insisted.

"I said, ‘I love you just the way you are.’  I replied.  "I like to say that to you when you are asleep so you will really, really know its true."

He smiled and closed his eyes.

"I’m gonna catch you next time."

"You can try," I said, "I am pretty good at waiting until you are fast asleep."

And thus began a new ritual, where they boys, one by one, as they learned of the game, would try to pretend to be asleep to catch me when I whispered, "I love you just the way you are."  Oh, how they laughed when they succeeded. 

Of course, most times I knew what they were up to.  They would clutch their covers under their chins and feign sleep.  I’d feign surprise. They would laugh with delight.  I would insist I needed to wait until they were asleep to tell them, then I’d give in.

"I love you just the way you are." 

Victorious, they would smile and settle down to sleep, their mission accomplished.

For some of us, learning to love in one direction – completely, freely, and without hesitation – is the most important task of motherhood. Learning how to love back is our children’s work.

Now, on the rare days that my boys are asleep before me, I still go in and check on them. I tweak the covers, turn off the glowing computers, lower the volume of their iPods, cover the errant hand or foot that sticks out from the covers, smooth back their hair, kiss their slightly less smooth cheeks and whisper to them  my truest refrain.

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17 thoughts on “Filch It Friday: Bedtime Rituals

  1. it’s this, isn’t it…the subtle yet fierce imparting of our love into all their pockets and creases so we may arm them with as much love as possible to carry them through. lovely.

  2. I remember those nighttime rituals of tucking in and putting away odd remnants of the day.
    You have captured the true essence of the “little things” that truly mean so much.
    Maybe I’ll get a second chance at these things since my oldest is coming back for a spell…

  3. Ah, lovely.
    My kids like me to come up after their dad tucks them in and say bedtime prayers with them – this one last stolen bit of time together before sleep.

  4. That’s so, so what I feel. It’s nice to know that in ten years time it won’t be any different. Except maybe the iPods. Whenever I get in after bedtime, I always go in and look at him, adjust a duvet that doesn’t really need adjusting, put something away. And tell him I love him.

  5. Filch it Friday – now there’s an idea that could come in handy.
    That’s a lovely post. I love the thought that Ellie will tune into the rituals and make them special in her own way. Weirdly, I always send Recaro into check on Ellie last thing at night. I’m trying to train myself into checking on her. I need to ditch the fear that I might jinx her peaceful sleep.
    Thanks for calling by my blog. I like the thought of getting an ‘end’ of motherhood perspective.

  6. That’s so lovely. I agree about learning to love in one direction — it’s the true sign of a grown up mother (or father). Hmmm… what would I whisper to mine? You have me thinking.

  7. I do love tiptoeing in and kissing their sleeping brows, those same kids that only moments before I might have been raging against or reprimanding or impatiently shepherding through teeth brushing, etc. Their sleeping selves are so forgivable. It gets me every time.

  8. I love this post! So endearing!
    My son and I always say:
    “Good Night Sleep Tight Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite, Have Sweet Dreams, I Love You- in one breath.
    I say it to him first and he says it back to me and we both say OK- good night with a kiss!
    It’s the perfect ending!

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