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A Bedtime Conversation with My Daughter

Cee is four. Four-and-one-third, but she can’t wait to be four-and-a-half. We’ve drawn out those fractions. And she asked if we could make a cake for her half birthday. Four-and-a-half is a big deal when you’re four-and-one-third.

She’s exploding with awareness about the world, and I’m just trying to keep up. She wants to know what the sky is made of, how many pennies are in a dollar, and why it’s still light at her bedtime now. She “reads” books to BabyM and her dolls with the confidence of a librarian, and she makes art every day (usually with glitter). She sits on the workbench in the garage and watches her dad work, and she knows better than I do where to find tools. She is eager to help and independent.

Until suddenly she’s not. Tears spring from her eyes, seemingly out of nowhere. She clings to me or stomps her feet in anger, depending on the catalyst for the meltdown. She’s four (and a third!), after all. She has a new little brother, and she has to compromise sometimes. And that can be really hard.

Anyway, that’s Cee now. Days with her are full of surprises, mostly good ones.

At bedtime tonight, we read a long book and then talked about our day together. We sang our “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” the way we have ended our bedtime routine since she was a tiny infant. (I wonder when she’ll outgrow that. I’m in no hurry.) I kissed her four times (cheek, butterfly, nose, and cheek again). All a very sweet bedtime routine, until it’s over.

And then the stalling began. There were questions about today and questions about tomorrow. There were demands for more kisses and hugs. There was a hangnail on her pinkie that she swore would keep her awake. I sat back down on the side of her bed.

“Cee, do you know what I do after you go to sleep?”

“No.”

“I write.”

“What do you write?”

(She knows that I wrote a book. I’ve been working on the page proofs and the index for the last month, tasks that aren’t exciting to me, much less a 4-year-old. But now that all that is done, I had to pause for a minute to think about her question before I answered.)

“Sometimes I write stories. Sometimes I write about science. Sometimes I write about my day so that I can remember it a long time from now.”

Her eyes lit up with the first mention of stories.

“Oh, mama! Do that! Write stories!”

For the first time, I felt like Cee could appreciate my life outside of her. I’ve been writing and teaching, and often leaving her to do it, for the last couple of years, but I don’t think she’s thought much about that work except that it takes me away from her.

That thought is also always in my mind when I work – it takes me away from my kids, or at least means a sacrifice of much-needed sleep. As a mostly stay-at-home mom, work feels like a guilty pleasure to me now. Finally, a little time alone at my computer! It does little to contribute to my family’s income, but it enriches my life.

Finally, I can see how my work might enrich my daughter’s life, too. On her face tonight was admiration and respect for me, a writer of stories. It made me want to write more, for myself and for her.

Of course, I still had to get out of her room at bedtime, and I still had to endure another round of stall tactics. That’s life with a four-and-one-third-year-old, even one starting to understand that the world doesn’t completely revolve around her.

28 Comments
  1. I so see what you are saying. My daughter is so super proud of me and it feels so good. Both my kids are proud of me anyway but she thinks it is the most awesome thing that I write and she even asked me to write about Tom & Jerry and Barbie once (which I did…). It is a good feeling, isn’t it?

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    March 23, 2015
    • Yes, it is:) I could suddenly see a future where there is more time for writing in my life and where I get cheered on by my kids!

      Like

      March 24, 2015
  2. Julie Thompson #

    You encapsulate so exquisitely the joys & challenges of parenting. You so clearly love and cherish the individuality of your children! Ok so more on that from the wee babe as days and months unfold. You help me to remind myself to cherish the uniqueness of my brood. And the guilty pleasure of working as a mom – so true. Thank you for bringing a voice to all of it. And. I rely on the supreme awesomeness of your analysis of reported scientific data. So. Useful. Thank you. Julie

    Please excuse any errors, or, use your imagination to interpret my garbledy gook.

    >

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  3. Oh this really resonates with me…. first the night time routine (set in stone!), then the stalling – all of mine still do this aged 9,7 and 5! Then the realisation that you have a life outside of them – and the realisation that this does;t make them cry with the thought they are being neglected, but their face lights up that there is an exciting world out there and you are part of it. The guilt has crippled me at times, but then when I see the light in their faces when I talk about my work or my writing I realise I am doing the right thing – I am showing them how to live your passions…. you are a wonderful teacher…. ditch the guilt, and enjoy her enthusiasm…

    Like

    March 24, 2015
    • Thank you! I’m sure this journey with our kids is in many ways universal. I love these surprises, and I feel like Cee is full of them right now:)

      Like

      March 24, 2015
  4. mt #

    How sweet! Oh, I can relate to mood swings. It’s almost as if they relish their newfound independence one moment, and the next, they’re thinking, “oh, hey, maybe things are moving too fast, I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave the old days behind and I don’t know what lies ahead.” Except they articulate that by having a meltdown.

    Right now, I’m trying to manage my expectations about the mood changes. I just returned to full-time work, and I come home looking forward to giggles and snuggles—but with a toddler, some days that’s just not in the cards. Especially at 5:30pm. When I come home exhausted and am greeted by a whiny toddler, it’s hard not to whine myself! I do keep in mind that the new schedule is a massive change for my son, too, but your post made me realize that perhaps I need to be even more mindful of it *before* I walk in the door, so I’m ready to meet my son where he’s at on a particular day, rather than being purely reactive to his mood. (There are plenty of sweet, snuggly afternoons, too).

    Growing up is hard work, but it’s nice to see other families greeting these changes with openness and love!

    Like

    March 24, 2015
    • Cee is in a stage where I think she’s really trying out different ways of being in the world. She can be very mature, almost comically so, and she’s really aware when she’s doing it. The next minute she can be whiney and appearing to have regressed 2-3 years! She’s also surprisingly adept at mimicking the way a toddler walks and talks, though that doesn’t make it any less annoying. I’m just trying to be steady and calm for her right now, and as you said, try not to be too reactive. It’s also helpful to me to remember that I can talk about something very seriously, and even if she doesn’t give me a lot of feedback in the moment, I see later that she heard me. Growing up IS hard work, and parenting at this stage is part guidance and part letting them figure things out on their own, always with steady support. It definitely isn’t an easy balance to strike!

      Oh, and I yearn to snuggle with my girl, and she just isn’t very good at it. Never has been. That was actually a topic at bedtime tonight – practicing being still while spending time with someone you love:)

      Like

      March 24, 2015
  5. Roger #

    My firstborn son was very aware of the competition brought in when we got twin girls – even though he was only one (and a quarter) year old when they were born. I still hear him shouting with frustration “Me me! Me me!”.

    But with a bit of work and thoughtful acting I was able to turn it into a positive thing. He does get exclusive daddy time and appreciates it a little more than before. I use my attention as a reward for good behavior, with focus on learning – he just turned two and is learning the alphabet – one sure way to get daddy’s attention is to show you have learned a few more letters! Shouting and throwing things gets a (short) timeout.

    I never exclude him – when I’m on the couch feeding the girls he’s welcome to join. I ask him to point out all the body parts of the girls – nose, cheek, head, elbow, knee, foot, etc. I praise him for being nice to them.

    Yea as a parent of multiple children, your attention will be a prized commodity .. ! You cannot give them as much as they want. My wife sometimes gets frustrated when she is tired and not able to deal with the three little ones wanting her undivided attention. So I told her just make sure they are taken care of and just say it is time for the nighty-night.. without getting frustrated. In the end I always consider it a compliment when someone wants my attention!

    Like

    March 24, 2015
  6. Roger #

    p.s. where can I get your book?

    Like

    March 24, 2015
    • Thanks for sharing your story! My book is coming out this fall. I should have more information soon! Stay tuned on the blog!

      Like

      March 24, 2015
  7. That’s the best thing; when your kids realize that your work is part of who you are. Emily wants to be a scientist (and an astronaut, and a veterinarian), and part of that is going to my lab and watching me work with my students. She says “my mommy is a scientist!” or “my mommy is a professor!” and it’s awesome.

    Like

    March 24, 2015
    • See, this makes me a little sad about leaving academia. I can imagine Cee would be so impressed by a lab! And a scientist mama. It’s worth the trade-off for me right now, but those feelings are complicated. Anyway, seeing her eyes light up was really inspiring and made me realize that the example I set for my daughter goes beyond my everyday interactions with her. I think she’ll be pretty psyched to see my name on the cover of a book, and hers on the dedication page:)

      Like

      March 24, 2015
  8. maggie #

    My daughter at 4 and a half said “Mommy is an engineer who fights for reason” for a Mother’s Day project from daycare. I still have that up on my wall. She also said I was only 30… she is my best cheerleader 🙂

    Like

    March 24, 2015
  9. I look forward to the day when I’ll consider work as a guilty pleasure. 😀

    It’s amazing how rewarding motherhood is for you. I’m also looking forward to that phase in my life in the far future. 🙂

    Like

    March 24, 2015
    • I am aware of the immense privilege it is to be able to view work as a guilty pleasure:) While I’ve always enjoyed work, that isn’t how I would have described it for most of my life! I feel so lucky to be able to have so much time with my kids right now.

      Like

      March 24, 2015
  10. That’s beautiful. It is important and sweet to see their awareness of us as people and not “just” their mommy. My littlest is 4.5 and it’s great to see these subtleties from someone else’s story, it makes me appreciate mine better. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    March 24, 2015
    • It really touched me, and actually, she inspired me to share the moment on my blog. Thank you!

      Like

      March 24, 2015
  11. I loved this. We give and we also give up, but there should always come a time when our own dream (and the pursuit) is an example to our kids. I haven’t yet decided what my example will be…I’ve been just “mom” for such a long time and I have several years to go, yet. Not too long ago, when my daughters were discussing their ambitions, my eldest asked me, “What’s your dream, Mom?”, and I realized that it was time to begin growing a few new ones. Your daughter’s excitement for you is a testament to the growth and promise of the human spirit. I think I probably miss as many of these little examples every day as I catch, so thanks for catching this one for us all 🙂

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    March 24, 2015
    • Thanks, and yes, it’s amazing how these kiddos can inspire us to pursue dreams just as much as we might inspire them!

      Like

      March 24, 2015
  12. Beautiful.

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    March 25, 2015
  13. I nominated you for a Liebster blog award! Check it out. https://mommisadventures.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/liebster-blog-award/ Have a beautiful day!

    Like

    March 25, 2015
  14. So very sweet! I loved reading this.

    Like

    March 29, 2015
  15. It so encouraging to see parents like you giving children the respect of dictating their choices throughout the day and in turn showing how you go through your day. Isn’t it a joy to see them understand and claim their independence?

    Like

    March 29, 2015
  16. This was a great post! I’m only 20 and a sophomore in college, but this makes me so eager to be a mom and have a family! Your daughter sounds like a sweetheart and I am glad writing enriches your life and that your daughter admires it! I do, too! 🙂

    Like

    March 31, 2015
  17. So sweet. My youngest is almost out of this phase and I’m holding on to every precious night.

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    April 6, 2015
  18. What a wonderful age! Lovely x

    Like

    April 14, 2015

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