Recently my husband and I were talking to a friend about our kids. He told us that the parenting job he hates the most is putting his kids to bed. All that book reading, drink fetching, hug giving, stalling, he hates it all. The educator in me was horrified. Reading books at bedtime is so important to kids! The mom in me was astonished. That sweet moment when your kids hug you and say “good night mommy, I love you” is one of the best part of the day. But the realistic adult in me was appreciating his honesty and nodding my head up and down while thinking “sing it brotha”.
For some reason it is not socially acceptable to admit that there are parts of parenting that totally suck. Parents walk around in fear that other parents may somehow sense that they secretly dislike singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and playing “Duck, Duck, Goose”. As if the fact that we grown ups would rather be doing grown up things than rolling around on the ground and reading the same pointless book over and over and over and over is somehow a bad thing. It is not a bad thing. It is just human nature that we all grow and develop as do our tastes and interests. So while we once were very interested in saying goodnight to the moon and the red balloon, our interests have changed. Now, if we have to say goodnight one more time to a room, chairs, kittens and mittens we just might vomit, and it is okay. It is normal! But we do these mundane, mind numbing tasks gladly with joy in our hearts because we love our children and want what’s best for them. That doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it.
There are many parenting “duties” that I strongly detest. There are the obvious ones, like waking up multiple times in the middle of the night, cleaning up stomach flu explosions, cleaning up after a two year old eats spaghetti, potty training, diaper changing, ear cleaning, fingernail trimming, wrestling a child into taking medicine, etc.
There are also not so obvious ones. Like the fact that I detest taking my kids to the park. I hate getting sand in my shoes and inevitably in my eyes as I’m standing underneath my kiddos as they’re climbing up a ladder. I hate that I am usually one of the only mothers there, which means that I become the mother for all of the kids at the park, and also the park disciplinarian. You can guess that the filthy three year old who has crossed a busy street by himself and has been at the park for three hours alone, subsisting on crab apples and what he thinks are Tootsie Rolls until I scream “THAT’S DOG POOP!” probably doesn’t have the same social skills that I expect from my children who won’t be allowed to go to the park by themselves until they can drive themselves there. Maybe not even then.
Or sometimes I’m not the only mom there, and that can be even worse. I always seem to run into the most annoying mom around and the fact that I have children who also breathe makes her think that we have a lot in common and are destined to be bff’s. Then I get to spend an hour hearing about how wonderful it is to home school her little geniuses because she can’t stand spending one second apart from her precious cherubs. The same 8 year old genius who just ate sand and pushed my two year old down? Yeah, he’s a treat. I can see why you would hate a break from that sociopath.
Even though I would much rather do my taxes and get a bikini wax, at the same time- while also listening to terrible country music, I continue to take my kids the park whenever we get a chance because it is good for them to get some fresh air and exercise, because they love it, and because that’s what parents do…. make sacrifices for their children no matter how painful.
Unlike our friend who hates bedtime, I don’t hate the entire bedtime process. I love the snuggles. I don’t mind reading one book with my kids, and I love the part when I turn out the light, shut the door, and walk out into the hall and my couple hours of “me” time.
But there are also parts of the bedtime process that are utterly painful. The fact that our bedtime routines have somehow morphed into a “process” is one, especially for Sassafrass. What used to be a manageable routine including a bath, a book, a hug and a kiss has turned into a crazily elaborate production involving a bath, three books, a Sassarina story, a back scratch, a hug and a kiss, and a “tucking up”.
What in the world is a Sassarina story? Well, it goes something like this: “Once upon a time there was a princess named Sassarina. She lived in a big giant pink and purple castle. One day, her mom, Mommyrina, took her to go play at the park……” and then various stories with moral lessons unfold. All of the characters in the stories names end with “rina”, so there is Daddyrina, Mr. Wizardrina, and Little Manrina. Some nights my story telling abilities are better than others. On the nights that my imagination is working with me and I come up with what Sassafrass deems is a winner she will say “save that one in your head, Mommy”. She wants me to be able to tell her it again someday.
Is she kidding? She doesn’t realize that I have already forgotten it. That I have also forgot my own last name on occasion. And that I honestly have no idea how old I am most days, just that I am somewhere between 35 and 39. It’s okay though, because I’ll probably be in that age range for the next 10 years or so.
After the Sassarina story is told and her little back is sufficiently scratched, it is time for hugs and kisses and she asks me to “tuck her up” which is her way of combining “tucking in” and “covering up” and I think is adorable. The first time. After she gets up 16 times to get a drink, use the potty, check her email, do a crossword puzzle, and whatever else it is that she thinks needs done instead of going to sleep, then it is not so cute when she asks me to tuck her up again.
While I do not hate putting my kids to bed, there are times that it can be exasperating and tiresome. I will continue to do it because it is the right thing to do for my kids and that is what matters. Hopefully, in many years to come, my kids will remember all of the moments that we have shared. Our memories from the park, in their bedrooms at bedtime, and all the other times that we have spent doing things that they loved and I tolerated.