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Friday, December 01, 2006

Tuck Everlasting?

From the time LG was a baby, her Daddy has been the one to put her to bed. This started when she was months old, and I returned to work part-time. I would spend my days with her, and my evenings I would go to work and see clients. To keep her routine consistent, even when I was home, Jif would do the honors. I would give my kisses and say my sweet things to her in the living room, and Jif would take her into her room and go through their ritual: tucking, holding hands and praying, a kiss, an "I love you." I have loved that she has had a Daddy who does that.

This routine has only changed slightly over the years. For the last few years, because she's a big girl and stays up later, even on the nights I work, I'm home before she goes to bed. The routine is the same every night -- a hug, a kiss, and this dialogue:

LG: Goodnight, Mama.
Me: Goodnight, baby.
LG: I love you.
Me: I love you, too. Sweet dreams.
LG: 'Night-night.
Me: 'Night.

Every night, that "'Night-night" part tugs my heartstrings. That's her own little convention, I don't know where it came from. But it seems even if she tries to leave the room and go up to bed without saying that, she can't; she calls from down the hall, around the corner, "'Night-night."

Then Jif follows her up, and they tuck, and pray, and the rest.

Last night, she said goodnight to me as usual. Then, she said goodnight to Jif. And she added, "You don't need to come up, Dad, I can put myself to bed." I still can't describe what happened inside me, except for an acute awareness that I am not ready for that. She may be. I am not. Jif haltingly said, "Okaaay..."

As LG left the room, I spoke to him as though she had said she was taking the car out to 7-11 to get a pack of cigarettes. "No," I said firmly. "It cannot be time for her to start putting herself to bed. Don't let go of that yet. Don't let it go." I think the near desperation in my tone left no room for him to respond in any way other than to follow her up the stairs.

Tonight, she said it again. I didn't have to say anything. When she said, "You don't need to come up, Dad," he said, "I want to," and she shrugged and said, "OK, then." I am thankful that she's not insistent on this new step into the next part of her life. When she was younger, I had vague ideas about when certain things happened -- a sippy cup, a big-girl bed. I've never considered when a little girl stops being tucked in. (Come to think of it, if I go to bed before Jif is ready, I like to be tucked in, perhaps that's why this burst of independence seems so ill-fitting to me!)

I don't want to stunt my kid's growth. I don't want to discourage her independence. But I'm not ready for her to tuck herself in yet. A memory has just floated up . . . . some 7 years ago, Jif and I, and our toddler girl were in a hotel room in Milwaukee. He was there for work and we had tagged along. We three were in the king-sized bed, chatting and giggling before sleep. All was quiet as we began to drift off in the darkness, when LG said, "This is a sacred night, isn't it, Mama?" I don't know how she knew the word "sacred," but she surely appeared to use it properly. And I said, to this baby I'd waited 13 years for, "Every night with you is a sacred night."

Santa is coming soon. At least once more, I want him to see that she's been properly "nestled all snug in her bed." She still believes. If there are some official guidelines, if there is some chart or equation that tells a parent when their child is ready to put herself to bed, I would think that it must include something about "belief in Santa = no self-tucking." Wouldn't you think?

31 heads are better than one . . .

Blogger WILLIAM said...

"Belief in santa =no self tucking" is a great rule to live by.

I have the honor of tucking Max into bed every night and sometimes it is a real chore, I will have to remember this for the next time I don't feel like it.

Blogger Circus Kelli said...

Oh darlin... this post brought tears to my eyes. I don't blame you one bit. That is a great rule.

Punkin is only a year or so behind LG, and Hubby and I both still tuck her (and the littles, too) in.

Some nights after they're all in bed, it will still be another 10 or so minutes before I can come down because each one still calls to me to have me sing one more song, or they have to tell me one more thing.

I confess that that part sometimes gets old. I'm tired and I just want to go downstairs and relax.

I hadn't even considered there will come a time when I won't be tucking them in.

Thank you for the reminder, Susie. I'll try to cherish the routine more tonight.

Blogger Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

Teary eyes here.

For every single nap (which has been a few years now, he's 8) and bedtime when my boy is in my house, I've tucked him in. Like you, we have our own routine. A couple of years ago he made the same statement your little one did.

I must have instantly teared up because he immediately said, "Unless you want to..."

He's always a good boy, but some moments he is particularly sweet. I make every effort to look up and audibly thank God. Loud enough where we can all three hear it. There is no room for doubt. There is no time to let slip by. Let them know by your actions and your words.

Thank you God.

Blogger Amy said...

Yep. Friday morning tears over here.

I love that 'sacred' part. How breathtaking, how heart-grabbing.

Thanks for this post, Susie.

Blogger Susie said...

Y'all make me want to tell you two things I have learned, two things that parents wiser than I have shared with me:
1. What children want more than anything else is to be enjoyed.
2. 99% of being a good parent is doing what you don't feel like doing.

william, that's it, the doing what you don't feel like. And remembering that it is an honor.
And thank you, I'll write soon ;)

ck, aw, you do that to me a lot, so it's payback time ;) All those ordinary things become . . . sacred . . .when we're reminded that they come to an end :(

mrB, I LOVE that your boy knows you thank God for him. I thank God for LG quietly all the time, but you remind me to let her hear it more often. What a gift. Wouldn't we all love to hear someone thanking God for our being here? You're good.

amy, I know, that really stuck with me, too :) You're welcome, friend. Thank you for sharing your mama moments, too :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A week or so ago, my nearly 17 year old daughter looked down her nose at me and directed an extremely hurtful comment in my direction. This action was so out of the ordinary for her that I used my next therapy session to discuss it and how I felt about it. My therapist, as usual, helped me remember the separating process that happens between children and parents. Then she said this: "It may be totally normal and necessary however it's still a huge loss. There is a grieving process that happens too."

Susie, my dear, your post has me weepy this morning. (yea, big surprise there I know) When we do such a great job parenting and our children feel secure enough to say what they need to (whether we are ready to hear it or not)to us, it's quite a testament to the love we've given them. That doesn't make it any easier though. As far as I'm concerned, all little girls need to be tucked in until they leave home for college!

Love you sweetie.

Blogger Nina said...

Shawna at 25 would tell you she still believes in Santa. When she asked at eight, then again at nine & 10. I would tell her well I believe in Santa. St. Nicholas was giving and loving. I believe in giving and loving so how can you not believe in Santa?
So my answer was always the same, Santa is love and I believe in love, so I believe in Santa.
Making memories, sacred nights, I can close my eyes and still be there. Even though all three are in their 20's, my heart and head still hold all those memories.
Sometimes we have to slow them down a bit for our own sake. Nothing wrong with saying I know you can put yourself to bed . . . but I love this time with you, it is special to me. So indulge me for a while longer, because I need to be able to tuck you in.
There is such a fine line in holding on and letting go. I was never shy in saying, and you don’t need me to. But I need to for me.

Blogger MrsDoF said...

How sweet a girl you are mothering!

Your writing made me go find my book on the shelf.
_Let Me Hold You Longer_ by Karen Kingsbury

Blogger Andrea said...

I can already anticipate how it will feel when Audrey (and later the others) gets to that point. I'm like William sometimes; it can be a chore. But at the same time, I'm not ready to drop any part of the routine (going over AWANA memory verses, reading a story -- currently Charlotte's Web, listening to one quiet song of her choice on a CD -- currently Oh, How I Love Jesus, and then the tucking and kissing and "I love you"-ing and the "night-night"-ing).

I also agree that all children should be tucked in until they leave for college!

Blogger Squirl said...

Such a bittersweet moment. I hope you can continue to enjoy the night routine for a long, long time.

Blogger Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

And now that the tears are gone, I'm happy to report the stocking stuffers arrived today!! (one for me, one for the boy) You should have seen the strange looks when my co-worker delivered my MOOING MAIL!


Too bad I didn't see these when placing my order:


Blogger LadyBug said...

Oh my...it's just so hard to see them growing up, isn't it?


Blogger Lynn said...

Susie, this reminds me of my son. When he was eleven(twelve?), he asked me for aftershave and a G.I. Joe watch. I thought my heart was going to break.

Blogger eclectic said...

You're a mean girl, Susie. OK, no you're not, but this one hits square between the eyes all the same. I have to say I delight in their steps toward independence and celebrate them. Maybe I should have more reluctance? More appreciation for what I'm losing? But it doesn't feel like a loss to me, it feels like advancing freedom and one step closer to being friends instead of caretaker/caretakee. Maybe I'm the mean girl. *sigh* It's sacred, that much is for certain. LG's right about that.

Blogger sometrouble said...

I love those little loving bedtime routines. My sister and I had them too...when we were young and in bunkbeds, every night we went through the same dialogue.

US: "see you later, alligator."

MOM or DAD: "after while, crocodile."

US: "don't let the bed bugs bite."

MOM or DAD: "I won't you neither."

It ALWAYS had to be said. If a parent didn't want to go through with it all, we would clamor until they said it. We were silly kids...but boy does it make for a very fond memory now.

Also, I was always so touched and felt very honored when the children I babysat for asked me to tuck them in and say their prayers with them. Those are special moments, one day LG will think back about them, and really be thankful she has those memories of being tucked in.

Blogger Platypus said...

A lovely post, as always. I've welled up! I think you were right to resist, at least for a little bit longer...

Blogger Nina said...

This comment is for eclectic because you are far from the *mean girl.*
The number *3* can be overwhelming at times.
We are to celebrate our children's independence, because that is our goal.
For me it was easier to give Shawna and then Ben their independence. With Michael it was a little different because he was my last one. At the same time with Shawna, being my first, she was older before she got to do things, the boys were able to do younger, because well it didn't kill her, so it isn't going to kill the boys.
The more of them you have the dynamics changes to a whole different ball game.
So you celebrate when you no longer have two in diapers . . . or when Shawna was old enough to watch the boys so I could go food shopping alone. Buy Christmas presents or even when all three could do their own laundry. It is normal, because it makes life easier.
For as hard as it is to have an empty nest . . . I don't have to worry about first dates, learning to drive, homework, and all the other things I found less than appealing about parenthood.
But I will forever and ever miss having their little arms around my neck. The excitement Christmas morning. Getting to see them every day . . . and so much more, just the way it is, dear one. ;)
So while I miss those days, I wouldn't go back to being a single mom with three little kids for anything in the world. I don't have the energy anymore.
Thanks Susie for the soapbox, now I'll turn it back over to ya!

Blogger Susie said...

traci, tucking in until college sounds fine by me :) And then on home visits, too.

nina, I say the very same things about Santa :) LG hasn't asked me directly, but she'll say "Brigitte (friend) doesn't believe in Santa..." and I'll say, "She doesn't?! How sad. I sure do..." And like you, I DO. I love and completely agree with your philosophy of telling them that those "outgrown" rituals have meaning for you. The message that is communicated is "you are precious to me and I value this time with you." That can only be good. Of course, there are those who hold on too tightly for too long, but that's not us. Certainly not! ;)

mrsDoF, I don't know that one, but I am intrigued, I'll have to check it out.

andrea, bedtime at your house sounds special, indeed :) Our "rule" is that LG can cuddle on my lap until she is 50 and I'm 86, but the day she turns 50, I'm dumping her butt on the floor! (I say that, but I won't really ;)

squirl, thank you, sis. Me, too. Especially recently, I find myself really hoping and praying to enjoy such things for a long, long time.

mrB, oops, I didn't copy your urls before I started typing! I'll get back to ya!

ladybug, it is. It's good, too. But not easy, sometimes.

lynn, oh no. Not aftershave. They have no idea why we look so stricken and act so crazy following such requests.

eclectic, hmmm. I will defer to the fine mind and mothering of Nina, who says much of what I thought in response to your comment. Two things I will say: it is very evident that you are a terrific mother, so I do not "should" on you in any way; AND it's not either/or -- I can celebrate the steps toward independence and be aware of the loss of certain interactions. And I know they'll be replaced with others. Equally sacred, but not the same.

sometrouble, thank you for that, your comment reminds me of my mom always telling me the "bed bugs" thing. And she always listened to me say the "Now I lay me down to sleep..." prayer :) And you're right, it is an honor to be invited into bedtime rituals.

platypus, yea, too many grown-up things are crowding in; we'll keep that as long as she doesn't mind too much.

nina, thank you for taking time to respond so thoughtfully to our dearest eclectic. I often wonder, and of course, have no way of knowing, how my mothering is affected by LG being an only, and by my having lost nine others but gotten to "keep" her. I am sure that it is affected. As you suggest, LG is my baby as well as being my first-born. I imagine when eclectic gets to the end of little-boy rituals with littlest eclectic, it will be a different experience of passing those milestones than it has been with the older two.

Blogger Susie said...

mrB, OK, I checked it out, and I must say I am covetous. Looks like a party in a can. Too bad they're sold out of that second product, I know a couple of people who might appreciate it.

Blogger Rebecca said...

Every night Audrey and I sing "Summertime" together before she goes to bed. I couldn't imagine the emotions should she ever ask me not to sing with her before bed. I've always seen us doing it even over the phone when she's at college. Growing up? I guess we can't hold back the tides.

Blogger eclectic said...

Nina, how much do I owe you for that absolutely lovely and perfect response? Susie, what's the going rate for excellent counseling?? ;)

It's hard sometimes to balance the privilege of parental responsibility with the understandable urge toward being an individual beyond the parental role. And as the responsibility mounts, it seems like the need to be an individual grows proportionately while the opportunities to do so shrink, making it ever harder to balance.

But if ever there were mothers whose words could draw my attention, it is you two. And as I'd expect, you've spoken wisdom to me. I'm grateful.

And tonight, when I heed my girl's request for bedtime "creepies" (lightly running fingernails over her back in random patterns, which apparently feels "creepy" through her nightshirt), I will hear your voices encouraging me to cherish every sacred moment. Thanks, Ladies.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well now, Nina, your response to my sweet buddy, Eclectic, has me a bit weepy AGAIN! Good lord, is there no end to the water works around here?! What a beautiful and gracious reminder to cherish the moments and celebrate growth as well as acknowledge the loss that often comes with it. I feel alot of those things about my 3 girls as they grow and change and while I am so excited to see the young women they are becoming, I do mourn the feel of little baby arms around my neck and sweet baby feet and all that goes with them. I tell my daughters that I cannot wait to be a grandmother...and then I remind them in no uncertain terms they must wait until they're done with college to produce the aforementioned grandchildren! LOL This whole parenting gig is definitely beautiful and difficult; happy and sad; holding on and letting go.

Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

I don't remember at what age the tucking in stopped at my house, but it was almost always done by Mom. Most nights, she could be talked into making a little lightshow in the dark with the orange glow from her cigarette as she was leaving.

Sounds weird, I know, but it was pretty common in my bedtime ritual.

Blogger Squirl said...

I've been thinking about this post. It's funny that Bucky just posted as I never remembered hearing about the glowing cigarette.

When I was little, I was second oldest, so my dad put Tardist (middle kid) and me to bed. My mom had younger ones she was taking care of. He used to tell us stories and tuck us in.

I don't remember when that stopped. But when it's toward the older end of five kids I don't think the impact is there. Just one less thing to do. I kinda wondered how it was, then, with Bucky, as she was the youngest.

It's easy to get tired your parental duties when you have a house full of rugrats. But as the older ones need you less, do you need the younger ones more?

Blogger Susie said...

rebecca, I like the nightly sing. Singing together is good for the soul.

eclectic, excellent counseling from a friend of nina's stature . . . priceless :) The need for the balance you describe is present for most moms, I think. And for those who aren't parents but have made a commitment to someone or something. I have made a certain peace with that tension by seeing my life in seasons, and this is the season in which LG's growth takes precedence over mine. Mine doesn't stop, certainly, but it is almost incidental to hers. For now. But not for always. Hopefully, I get more and different seasons, too :)
I love the "creepies." Who knew creepy could be sweet?

traci, oh, my. Wanting to be a grandmother. Wanna hear WEIRD? In the delivery room after giving birth to LG, I actually recall having the very conscious thought, "What an honor it will be if I can be there when she gives birth."

bucky, have I told you lately that I love you? No one but you can make the glow of a cigarette in a small child's room, absolutely heart-warming.

For much younger readers, I feel I must state that for those of us of a certain age, nearly all of our moms smoked, yes, even in our rooms, and no one thought twice about it.

squirl, I suspect your last sentence hits the nail on the head for a lot of moms of many. :)

Blogger The other me said...

Sometimes, bedtime makes me weep...3 big people, 21 ( left home) 19 chef and gets home in the wee hours, 17 ..only girl...and then 3 little boys, 6, 5 and 3..all 'need' a piggy back on my poor aching spine, up 20+ stairs, Seth needs 'strokes' face strokes until he gets melty and sleepy, Isaac needs kissing and telling he is a good boy and when he is done sleeping in his bed he can come into ours, toys to clear, Elijah needs anything and everything that will just keep me there longer. Squirl is so right, the older the others get, the more I need this little man to suck his thumb and lay with my ear and stop me cleaning rooms and doing laundry that will wait..because he won't.
If your divine girlie wants to go to bed alone, let her, but say you have to come and say goodnight once she is snuggled in. I still have to look at my bigguns when they are asleep, even 6' 5" Jordan....the great thing is, the know you need to do that and secretly, I think actually they rather like it.

Blogger Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

Hey Susie, you can even HEAR what those suckers sound like. We sorta started Christmas earlier than our usual early start. Ooops. :)

Check out the Gcast on YPS!!

Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

That’s a beautiful story, Susie. I remember when… but if I start think of those days my eyes will be too wet to type. Thank you.

Blogger Nina said...

Being a parent is the hardest and most rewarding experience I have ever had. The responsibility is a tremendous one, they do grow up and leave, then you look at them and think wow, these are great people, and I helped them become what they have become. Not only do I love my children, but I like them very much. They are wonderful adults and I am very proud of them.

Susie, I'm sure having an only is different. LG, sounds like an old soul . . . I swear we learn much from our children. They make us better people I swear they do.

Eclectic, It has been over 3 years since I have charged for counseling. Three years since I quit working. Now I just volunteer here and there.
But it really isn't counseling or therapy, when one friend says to another, I understand, I have been there. I know how hard it can be. That my dear is just plain ole love, caring, and understanding.

Anonymous Cindy said...


(I hope she changes her mind about the tucking in...but if not, you always have the memories...)

Anonymous Hemlock said...

I remember my mom telling me about my first day of Grade 1. I wanted to walk to the school bus stop myself, and it almost killed my mom... It's hard when they make that move. I've witnessed it with my sister and can't imagine what it'll be like with my kids.


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