Bedtime Stories

Like every family I’m sure, we had little bedtime rituals here at our house when our children were small.  As soon as my son was in a “big boy bed” my husband and I would both lay down with him and read him books. Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Gorilla, (my favorite) Jamberry (my husband’s favorite) and of course Green Eggs and Ham were popular in rotation. I would read the page on the left and my husband would read the page on the right.  Like wicked children my husband and I would each try to choose books we knew had more text on “our” side.  When my daughter was old enough we would do the same.

Photo credit: PlayingWithBrushes via Creative Commons

As my son got older my husband and I started moving beyond Dr. Seuss and on to bigger books.  We started reading chapter books like Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles and The Chronicles of Narnia series.  I would usually fall asleep while we were reading these books (therefore losing out on my page) and my husband would end up reading the chapter himself.

After my husband read to our son I would wake up and tuck him in and kiss him and tell him, “Sweetest sweet dreams in the whole wide world and have good luck.” (He came up with this saying and would insist that I say this to him every night.)

“You do too, Mom,” he would say as he rolled over to go to sleep.

When our son got older and started going to bed later and began to read chapter books on his own, I would still come in and read Shel Silverstein poems to him.  Oh how we loved Shel Silverstein.  We have all his books and have probably read each poem at least 100 times.  He would always make me read the longest poems to him.

My daughter was never interested in hearing big chapter books like my son.  She preferred the picture books.  If we did start a short chapter book – Judy Moody, Magic Tree House – she’d rarely stick with it. The next night I’d crawl into bed with her to read the next chapter and she’d want something else instead.

After reading to my daughter I always gave her good dreams.  They were very elaborate and imaginative: I want you to dream that you are flying to the moon on butterfly wings – Make them eagle wings Mommy – okay eagle wings, and when you get to the moon you jump up and down like you are on the biggest trampoline in the world – But I’m not in the world Mommy, I’m on the moon – Yes, you are on the moon, and when you get tired of jumping you fly down and land on a cloud where you take a nap. When you wake up you eat the cloud because it tastes just like cotton candy and then you fly down into your bed and fall asleep.

My daughter is ten now and has advanced to chapter books, but prefers to read them on her own.  Once in awhile she’ll let me read her some poems and even give her some more “grownup” good dreams.

My favorite one to give her is this:  “I want you to dream that when you wake up in the morning your room will be clean.  Oh wait,” I say slapping myself in the forehead, “That’s my dream.”

My son is thirteen and we don’t read to him anymore.  Until recently he still liked me to climb in bed with him and read him poems.  But for the past month or two when we tell him it’s bedtime he gets ready for bed and stands at the end of the hall and says goodnight.  I’ll usually wait a few minutes and then go peek my head in his room and give him a kiss.

The other night I picked up a Shel Silverstein book and picked a poem.  “That poem is too long Mom.

Can you pick another one?”

“Sure,” I told him and picked a short one and did my best to read it without a quiver in my voice.

“Thanks, goodnight,” he said as he rolled over.

“I miss reading you poems,” I told him.

“I know, because you said you would read to me at night until I didn’t want you to anymore.”

“So you’re good with this?  You don’t want me to anymore?”

“I’m good with this,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked with tears in my eyes.

“I’m sure.  Goodnight Mom.”

“Goodnight Honey.  Sweetest sweet dreams in the whole wide world and have good luck.”

“You do too, Mom” he responded to me as always.  And as I shut his door I wondered how long it would be before he outgrows this very last ritual of ours as he has outgrown the others.  I hope it’s a very, very long time.

*Originally posted on October 2010. Some nights, when Chandler is home from college (and he goes to bed before me) I still tell him, “Sweetest sweet dream in the whole wide world and have good luck.” And he always tells me, “You do too.”


To My Firstborn On His 18th Birthday

Chandler turns 18 today. My firstborn child. My son. My baby. My man.

And probably like every mother before and after me whose firstborn turns 18, I think to myself, “How did this  happen so quickly?” Yet at the same time the day he came into this world seems so long ago. But whether it was a the blink of an eye (oh, it was, it was) or a lifetime (it was that too), it’s here, his first day of official adulthood and whatever I write about him, about the privilege of being his mother, will not nearly be worthy.

How do I express the love I feel for my firstborn? How wonderful and special and sublime he is? How he’s made me a better person? The words fall short. I am not a good enough writer to string together the proper words to articulate my undying love for this boy. (Or rather, this man.)

It is simply not enough to say that I love him for his uniqueness. I love him because he doesn’t follow the crowd. He stands up for the little man. He understands that the world is unfair, but it still often personally offends him. (Oh how I adore his bleeding liberal heart.)

He loves to hike and to run and to be outdoors. He wears a size 13 shoe, but strives to make his carbon footprint small, minuscule.

He’s quiet, but funny, so funny in the smartest way. He is thoughtful and kind, though his sister may tell you differently. But even with her, his greatest foe, I’ve witnessed acts of generosity and encouraging words when needed.

I believe Chandler’s best quality, and one that will serve him well in life, is his tenacity. The first time I really remember noticing this was on his 7th birthday. I took him roller skating after school with some friends. He fell and he fell and he fell and he fell. (I skated with him and considered it quite an accomplishment that he never pulled me down with him!) I thought he would cry and give up and say that skating was stupid. Instead he looked up at me and said, “That was so much fun! Can we have my birthday party here?” I see that same tenacity when he runs. When he studies. When he wants to play Monopoly over winter break and none of the rest of us do. He doesn’t give up. He’s all in.

He told me over the weekend that he’s not quite ready to turn 18. He wishes he could be 17 again. (Oh, I do too!) This surprised me because he’s been pushing away lately. He says he can’t wait to go away to college, the farther the better. (I really shouldn’t have taught him to do his laundry. I should have made him need me more.) But it also warmed my heart to know that as much as he wants to go, part of him very much wants to stay.

And I think to myself, if I could freeze time, which part would I freeze? Would it be when he was a baby and I would hold him in my arms for hours on end unable to get enough of his baby smell? Or when he was a toddler and we would snuggle in his bed every night to read Shel Silverstein and Good Night Moon? Or that between stage of toddler and boy when he would kiss me like this:

This will forever be my favorite picture of us

Would I freeze the days we taught him to ride his bike or that first day roller skating or the first time I saw him perform with the band in middle school? The first time I watched him win a race. When we taught him to drive? (No, definitely not then!)

Which moments were the most precious? The most special? The best?

All of them of course. I couldn’t choose just one if I were able to, which of course I’m not. (Otherwise I’d be forever 36. Seriously, forget 29, 36 was my year!) All I can do is stand back and admire my son and the man he has become.

Thank you, Chandler for making my life so much better, richer, more meaningful. I am so proud of the man you have become. I am so humbled and honored to be your mother.

Happy Birthday son.