Sliding in and out of bedtime
One of my favorite parts of my days with Elliot is bedtime. Getting there – with all of the “I don’t want to clean up my toys” and “Can I have another snack?” and “I hate brushing my teeth” – is not always my favorite, but once we are there, sitting on his bed, ready to read books and pray and talk, I like it.
Especially the talking. Inspired by an old Momastery post that details author Glennon Doyle Melton’s bedtime routine of talking to her son Chase about any worries that have arisen during the day, I have started asking Elliot if there’s anything he wants to discuss before he goes to sleep. I leave the question open-ended, so Elliot can bring up any topic that’s on his mind. And, trust me, there is always something to debate.
Like a couple nights ago when he deliberated over the small pool that sits at the bottom of the park’s water slides.
“There’s a drain at the bottom of that pool, Mama. Just like the there are drains in the big pool. But, they don’t let the water drain when they close the pool every day, do they?”
“No, that would waste too much water.”
“That’s what I thought. They drain the water when summer is over, right?”
“I think so.”
“Well, when summer comes again, do you know how they fill up the pool at the bottom of the slides?”
“No. I’ve never really thought about it.”
“Here’s what they do,” he said, his hands ready to gesture. “They turn on the slides.” Still lying on his back, he raised his arms and flattened his hands. “The water goes down the slides,” he explained, his hands mimicking the turns and curves. “Then, it goes into the pool, and that water keeps the pool full for the summer,” he concluded, emphatically dropping his hands to his legs with a plop.
“Is that really how they do it?” I asked, honestly wondering because I had never, ever considered any of this.
“That’s what I think. Next time I go to the pool, I’m going to ask. That has to be what they do. Using the water from the slides is much easier than bringing a hose to the pool and filling it up.”
I raised my eyebrows and tilted my head. “It makes sense to me.”
A couple nights prior to the water slide discussion, though, Elliot started a worry avalanche. It began with a simple, “I don’t want to go to first grade.”
“Well, first grade is still more than a month away, Buddy.”
“I know, but I want to go to kindergarten again. I don’t want to go to first grade.”
“But you did so well in kindergarten. You learned so much, and you can read now. You are definitely ready for first grade when it starts.”
He put his hands to his eyes, and I knew he was on the verge of tears. “First grade is going to be hard. And I don’t want to go to second grade or fifth grade or eighth grade or twelfth grade. Twelfth grade is going to be really hard! I’ll never win any of the challenges in twelfth grade!”
I did my best to reassure him, to explain that learning is a gradual process and that he will be ready for twelfth grade when it comes. “But that’s a long time away. And even if you never win a single challenge, Daddy and I love you no matter what. We couldn’t love you any more than we already do.”
I thought I started these bedtime conversations to help Elliot – to allow him to debrief about his day and process his emotions. I think those things are occurring, but I am learning too. I am debriefing and processing right along with him. It is hard – all of it.
But after Elliot spews about water slides and twelfth-grade challenges and I am somehow able to help him feel better about his worries, I put my arm around him and just lie there with him.
I smell his chlorine-scented hair, sun-streaked with blond highlights for which women would pay top dollar. I listen to his breathing slow, and I stare at his face, his nose that looks like mine and his eyebrows that imitate Mike’s.
And for that moment, the only thing that’s hard is prying my body out of Elliot’s bed, where we were comfortable and peaceful. But the dishes and laundry beckon me, so I leave his room and look forward to whatever conversation we have the next evening.
Originally published on ovparent.com.