Saturday, January 28, 2012

At Bedtime They Were Mine

I loved bedtime for my boys, and not because they'd soon be in bed and I'd have time for myself and Peter W., though I enjoyed that, too, but because it was a special time together. During the day, I had "competition" from friends, play, television, and school on their part, and household chores, cooking, work, shopping, and more on my part. Bedtime was just us, no distractions, a time apart. After they were bathed and in their pajamas, I'd cuddle up and read to them, and after that, cuddle in the dark and talk. That was always the time when they'd talk about things that really mattered, the things that were on their minds, things that happened to them, what hurt their feelings, what scared them, what they had questions about, their dreams, the future. It was magic and sweet.

After that, I'd sing to them. Sometimes each one separately, but more often, once Leif was about two years old, I'd sit on the floor in the hallway between their rooms and sing to them.

It astonishes me that with the literally thousands of photos we have of our boys and our family, there is not one single photo I can find of me singing to them, or cuddling in bed with them, or singing with my guitar. I can picture those times in my mind, but no one else will ever see them now.

This photo of Leif asleep on a train in Europe the summer of 1977 is something I took. He was so little and sweet, though very tall for his age at two-and-a-half. We took a long train trip that summer, from Germany to Norway, back south to Paris and the Riviera. The boys slept on trains and in hotels, and it was a great time for us. I posted a photo of the two boys cuddled up in a hostel bed in Norway. But no photos of me with them.

I think so many of today's children don't have a "bedtime," not in the sense of a time to go to bed, or in the sense of a comforting and loving ritual they can count on. So many are allowed to stay up way too late and are tired the next morning. Even with a regular bedtime I had a hard time getting my boys up to go to school. They slept soundly and didn't want to wake up!

I wish I had a list of all the books I read to them and all the songs I sang to them. I'm trying to make a list of the songs. I'll probably be able to remember a few of the books. I'll have to post those lists when I think I've exhausted my memory of things to add to them.

Most of the time the boys were cooperative about going to bed, and I think that the pleasant ritual and the affection and cuddling made it something enjoyable instead of something to fight against. However, it wasn't universally that way. When Peter A. was about four he would go to bed just fine, but then in a few minutes start calling that he needed a drink of water, or had to go to the bathroom, or saw a monster outside his window.

Leif went through a period where after we'd gone through the bedtime cuddling and I hugged and kissed him good night and went downstairs, he would wait about five minutes and then sneak down the stairs after me. I'd put him back in bed and down he would come again. This would go on repeatedly until I had to be very stern with him or put in in his Zip-a-Babe harness so he couldn't get out of bed. Oddly, as I've written before, he didn't seem to mind that, seemed to find it a relief that he couldn't get out of bed. The "getting out of bed" period didn't last long, just a month or so.

I missed those bedtime routines when the boys got into high school and I think they did, too.


Four years ago tonight we were having dinner here with Leif, his last birthday dinner, a day before his birthday because he had to work on his birthday, the evening shift. Little did we know it would be the last birthday dinner we would share with him

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