I love the magic that happens at bedtime. The closeness and relaxed little body against mine. The slow down as we choose a book to read together which starts as her “reading” the book to me and then handing it to me with an expectant, “your turn!” We read the pages and stop to look at some of the pictures longer than others. Then I ask her what song she wants me to sing first and it’s the same one every night… “joy-joy, please!” Once I didn’t ask and I just started singing and rocking… I quickly learned she likes to be asked regardless of whether or not I know the right answer. When we finish singing three or four songs I lay her in her bed and the best part of my day begins.
No, it’s not running downstairs to finally get some “me time.” It’s not rushing off to my secret stash of sweets or collapsing on the couch with the remote. It’s what I used to think were her stall tactics, but now see is really her little heart opening up to mine as she lays in bed replaying the day in her mind. As I lean over her for one more kiss goodnight she starts to open up, and I have learned to stop and listen.
She tells me about all the things she did that day. I hear stories from school and I learn what stood out to her as special at home. She asks me questions and tells me what she wants to do the next day. I hear her say things like, “maybe we’ll go to a basketball game?” and, “will you paint my toesies in the morning?” and last night it was, “I want to see Pap, Grandpa, and Uncle Billy please.”
This beautiful thing happens at the end of the day by her bedside – I learn what is important to my daughter. As she shares her memories and things she misses or looks forward to, I get a glimpse of her heart. We get uninterrupted time to connect as the room is quiet and still and dark. She isn’t competing for my attention with anything or anyone else. It’s just me and her together and she blossoms. I have learned to be still and quiet and only talk if she asks me a question or to let her know I’m listening. I don’t guide her words or try to teach her things as I sometimes do during the day. This time for us is my turn to sit and learn from her.
But I almost missed out on it. In my exhaustion and to-do lists I cut her off. When she first started to talk to me at bed time I listened for a moment and then told her that it was time for bed and we’d talk in the morning. But when morning came she had either forgotten what she was going to share with me, or she simply didn’t want to anymore. I felt a twinge of disappointment and then went on with the day. After a few mornings like this I decided to let her talk to me that night and the result was beautiful connection.
I’ve learned that there is nothing on my to-do list as important as hearing my daughter. No matter how tired I am, I know I’ll regret not staying next to her and listening to her thoughts. We’re building a foundation of trust each evening as learns that she matters and I will listen to her. And I can only hope that she will want to talk to me at bedtime when she is six, ten, fourteen, and eighteen. I hope when our evenings are quiet and there are no little ones to tuck in at night that my phone will occasionally ring around 8pm, and she’ll want to talk to me then too.