I NEED the two or so hours I get between the kids' bedtime and my own bedtime. I use this time to work or unwind or do ANYTHING, besides being a mommy. Being a mommy requires my undivided attention for the other 14 waking hours of each day. Nevertheless, as a parent I remain "on call" around the clock whether it is during those blissful two hours or not.
I have begun latching the child gate at the top of the stairs each night before I retreat to the basement to unwind. Dear Daughter still does not know how to unlatch this gate, and so I have resorted to this because she had begun getting out of bed and repeatedly coming downstairs for random reasons instead of being in bed and asleep. Usually the gate deters her. Each night approximately 15 minutes after I leave her room, I hear the pitter patter of her little feet on the floor above me. They make their way down the hall and pause at the top of the stairs. While I can't see her, I can hear her. She sometimes checks the gate gently to be sure it is latched. Then she gives up and goes back to bed where she lies in bed reading books until the falls asleep (with her light still on).
Falling asleep with her light on is a new routine that started when I suggested that if she just can't sleep, she can turn her lamp on and read for a little while after I tuck her in. I thought this idea would keep her from getting out of bed. Now she thinks this is a nightly requirement (in ADDITION to getting up at least once) despite the fact that I read to her for 30-45 minutes in her bed each night and then snuggle in the dark with her for another 15-20 minutes. By this time it is often 9:30 pm. Little girls who are only four years old need to be asleep by then, if you ask me. I don't let her sleep past 8 am and she hasn't napped since she was about 2 1/2 years old. Still, she has been up until at least 10:30 and sometimes 11:00 for the past few weeks. I kept thinking it would catch up with her and she would finally fall asleep as soon as the light went out for our snuggle time. So far, it hasn't.
Daughter never calls for me from the top of the stairs behind the latched child gate. I think she knows she would be in trouble for this, especially if she woke up her little brother whose bedroom is on the other side of the wall by the gate. Tonight, however, I heard the routine pitter patter, the pause, and then I assumed she went back to bed. A few minutes later I heard her jiggle the gate with a touch of urgency followed by a weak, but desperate, little voice calling, "Mommy, I need a hug and kiss!" followed by a brief pause and tears and a quick scamper down the hall back to her room. I figured this was simply her typical drama attached to her perception of bedtime as a traumatic experience since she would have to defer being attached to my side for 10 hours while she sleeps. And yet this was the first time she responded this way, and so I decided to check it out. I found her in her room sobbing, and when she saw me walk through the door she literally jumped into my arms. Her only explanation was that she needed hugs and kisses because she just loves me so much. I indulged the moment, as Dear Son's bed time interactions with me amount to him shooing me away when I try to steal a kiss and ordering me to "Go to bed! Please!" The "Please!" grows in urgency the longer I linger and the more I try to give or steal kisses.
As I held my sobbing little drama queen close, the following conversation ensued:
Me: "What in the world is the matter?"
Daughter: "I just love you so much that I needed hugs and kisses!" *sob sob*
Me: "I just spent 45 minutes reading to you and another 20 minutes snuggling with you with the lights out."
Daughter: "I know, but I just love you so much. And when you snuggle with me I get a warm toasty feeling in my tummy, and I just needed that warm toasty feeling again. I just love you so much, Mommy!"
Me: "Oh, Sweetie, I love you too. I get that warm toasty feeling in my tummy, too, when I snuggle you!"
Daughter: "You do?!"
Me: "Of course I do. And I will always be your mommy, and I will love you for the rest of my life. No matter what!"
Daughter: "And I will love YOU for the rest of MY life! And when we go to Heaven our spirits will be there together and we will love each other forever and ever."
Me: "Yes, Sweetie. We will love each other forever and ever in Heaven!"
Daughter: "And maybe when you get to Heaven you hair will have the shape you want it to have."
(I recently got a modification to my haircut that is supposed to be one of those trendy angled cuts...but in the end it looked a lot better on the Aquage poster model in the salon than on my own head. Of course, the model being a perfect size 3 probably had a lot to do with how great her haircut looked, too. Yeah, I can tell from a head shot when someone is a size 3. But I digress. Apparently Dear Daughter heard me fussing the other night about whether I liked the shape of my hair cut.)
Me: "Yes, that would be nice to have the right hair shape in Heaven."
Daughter: "Yeah! And maybe in Heaven Daddy's head will be smaller!"
By this time I was giggling too hard to comment, not that I knew how to respond to that anyway.
You see, there is this joke in the family about the "Gates' head." It is a reference to the rather large heads on my husband's mother's side of the family. I've always thought my husband to have a rather large head. It's not so noticeable as long as he keeps his hair cut short enough. When it starts to get too long, it gets pretty big and bushy and I usually tease him that his "head is getting really big" and inquire when he is planning to get a haircut. Daughter has never made reference to any of this ever before. I, in fact, have not made reference to this in a really long time either, so I have no idea why this came up in the conversation so randomly.
Nevertheless, I found it hysterical, and so I had to post it as I thought my Dear Mother-in Law would get a giggle out of it as well.