There's something ridiculously cute about a little kid at bedtime. Maybe it's because at bedtime you can see the finish line directly ahead and, being thus freed from worrying about how much more your exhausted spirit will be able to endure, you can more fully appreciate the sweetness of your children. But then again, maybe it's just that there's something naturally heart-warming about little people padding around in fuzzie feetie jammies, gigantically round glazed eyes, insane overtired giggles, the smell of slightly damp, freshly washed hair.
Our family's evening routine is a well-worn path. Every night is pretty much the same: after dinner and bath time (if it's a bath night), Mommy declares that it is time for jammies and teeth brushing. Soren generally freaks out at this prospect, screaming that he's "'gared of lions" and/or that he "can't sleep." While one parent chases Soren around with his jammies and forces him into a diaper change, the other changes the ever-placid William. Then the Designated Soren Parent supervises tooth brushing ("supervision" ranging anywhere from offering a quick follow-up brushing to hosting a full-bore hold-'im-down-and-scrub-'is-teeth-while-he-screams wrestling match). The tooth brushing event is followed by "Song Prayer," wherein--surprise!--a song is sung and a prayer is said. (As an aside, Soren's prayers usually go like this: "Dearheavenwyfawther, Bissbissbiss, bissbissbissfood, NameajesuskystAAAAMEN." Also, Soren prays every night, often multiple times in a row, whether or not it is his turn, and regardless of whether someone else is simultaneously saying the official prayer). After Song Prayer, Daddy takes Liam downstairs, where he reads the news online with the little chubster flailing around on his lap. Chubby's movements gradually slow down, his eyelids grow heavier and heavier, and pretty soon his head is tilted loosely against his shoulder and he's breathing loud and heavy. Meanwhile, upstairs, Mommy and Soren have moved to Soren's bedroom.
Tonight Soren came to bed with his big dump truck (Sting), his little dump truck (Shwann), and two large foam letters: B (for big) and F (for ferocious). I had told him that B and F would protect him from those scary lions; the dump trucks were his own random addition to the Lion Protection Crew. We settled down on a pillow and blanket laid out in front of the door, as the child flat-out refuses to sleep in his bed, and I told him two stories. Tonight the stories were about Sting and Shwann, the big and little dump trucks. In the first story, Schwann got very sick and Sting worked extra hard to help Schwann carry his load of dirt at the construction site. In the second story, Schwann turned up missing and Sting searched everywhere for him, only to find that Shwann had fallen asleep under his bed at home. After two stories, Soren and I and Shwann and Sting moved to the rocking chair, where I told Soren he could have one more story and one more song and then it would be time to sleep. When I mentioned sleep, Soren immediately asserted, "But I'm 'gared!" "Soren," I reminded him, "You have B and F and Schwann and Sting. There is nothing in the world to be scared of!" "Oh, yeah!" replied Soren, and he settled against me for another story. In this story, Shwann and Sting helped Soren bring home a pot of gold so that Mommy and Daddy could pay off the mortgage and their student loans. At the end of the song, Soren said, "Now I want a song!" I asked him what song he would like to sing, and he said, "A song about me!" So I sang "Soren once was a little child," set to the tune of "Jesus once was a little child." (As I sang this, I pondered the possibility that this might be some sort of sacrilege, but then decided that "Jesus Once Was a Little Child" was a stupid song anyway and that its message that all children should be "humble and meek and mild" was damaging and that, even if I was desecrating the holy tune, it was an okay holy tune to desecrate.) At the end of his song, I told Soren it was time to climb in bed. "But I'm 'gared!" I reminded him again that Schwann and Sting and B and F had his back. This seemed to bring him comfort, as he climbed off my lap, settled Schwann and Sting and B and F near his pillow, lay down, and allowed me to stack blankets on top of him.
"Oh, sweetie," I said, kissing his warm little cheek, "I love you so very much."
And a little muffled voice came up from under the pillow and twined itself around my heart:
"I wuf you so merry much too, Mommy."