There's an almost endless amount of noise out there in the world about what parents ought to do for their children (eat dinner with them, read to them, keep them organized, bla bla bla) and most of it I try to let fly over my head. I try to tell myself that one of best things I can do for them, in the larger sense, is to be calm and not worry about all the things I'm supposed to be doing. Besides, there are enough things I like doing (reading to them, having dinner with them) that making any of these things into things I'm supposed to do would kill the fun and make all of us miserable.
The thing is, I hadn't so much thought about what the children themselves want, when I thought about that.
I mean, for the longest time they've just wanted to have dinner with us, or to have us read to them, so it's all worked out. And while I know I am coming on up to the time when they're going to intermittently hate me, I still felt that, more or less, I was the desired one. There's a certain arrogance one gets from being, you know, Mommy. In a small circle, at least, everyone wants you all the time. It's enough to go to a girl's head.
Last night, when Chestnut was getting ready for bed, I asked her where The Secret Garden was.
"You know, I think I'm just going to play until I fall asleep," she said.
"But I can read to you," I helpfully explained. "We can read anything you want. And then we can cuddle," just sort of assuming, you know, who could refuse that?
"Oh, no thanks," she said cheerily.
My throat got kind of tight, I looked around the room for some support. Nothing. Diana was reading on her bed (she prefers having a reading cuddle to being read to, a reading cuddle involves an adult and her lying in the big bed each reading their separate books and every now and then discussing them. It's awesome). Chestnut was busy with some plastic stars arranged on her pillow and a strange folded up piece of paper.
Now I know that
1) this does not mean I will never read her another bedtime story,
2) this is as nothing compared to the way I will be shunned in just a few short years, and
3) it's amazing and excellent that she can be engaged by a few plastic stars and a piece of folded paper. What was she doing with it? What could it mean? It looked really fun and it's none of my business.
It's just that I wanted to read to her; I really did. And I didn't—it didn't work out for me on that particular night.
I used to wonder at what age kids stopped crying every day. I would ask various parents of older kids, whining "When does it end? The daily crying over every little thing, it's killing me." And now it turns out (duh!) that all of it ends, the good and the bad both. I don't think the bedtime stories are ending exactly. I have no idea when this happens for other people, it wasn't something I ever thought to ask. But I do think they're on their way out. And it's too bad. It turns out, as hard-to-get as I sometimes played, I liked those weird things you're supposed to do for people as much as they did. And soon I'll be the only one who does.