Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Children, bedtime rituals and growing up too fast

Reading a bedtime story has been, for me, one of the great pleasures of having small children.  I used to love those twenty minutes or so when my girls were tucked up in bed, all clean in their pjs and cuddling up to hear a story. We had so many favourites and read and reread many stories over the years, but I have special memories of the Wishing Chair stories and The Magic Faraway Tree which were the last two books I read to both girls before The Teenager decided she was "too old" for that sort of thing. She was probably about 9 or 10 at the time.

Bedtime stories for Tall Daughter continued though and we went on to enjoy many more books, especially the Sophie Stories by Dick King-Smith which she absolutely loved. Tall Daughter is 12 now, she'll be 13 in a few months time, and although we no longer read bedtime stories together we still have a particular bedtime ritual.

Most nights, when I tell her it's time for bed, she will ask me to come and say goodnight.  I wait ten minutes or so until she's ready, then I'll go up to her bedroom where she'll already be tucked up in bed with the bedside light on. Lying together on the bed we'll have a chat about her day, or she'll tell me of her plans for her new bedroom or (and this happens quite a lot) we'll just have a bit of silly time together. It's a lovely few minutes - no more than 5 or 10 - before we say goodnight and I go back downstairs.

Just recently though a friend and my brother have (on a couple of separate occasions) overheard her asking me to say goodnight and have expressed surprise that I still "put her to bed".  I don't, but even if I did why would that be a problem?

She's 12, she's still a child. She'll be a teenager soon enough, and will spend most of her life as an adult so right now I'd like her to be a child for just a little bit longer.

I read a really thought-provoking article recently lamenting these final moments of parenthood. While we celebrate every new first  (tooth, step, word) there isn't any way of knowing when the 'lasts' will be (bedtime story, letter to Father Christmas, game of football on the lawn) until they're gone, and mostly unnoticed.

It might be hard to imagine it now, but sooner than you think you will read your child/ren their last bedtime story before, quite suddenly, you are no longer needed.

I'm probably in the last few months of Tall Daughter wanting our little goodnight routine, and I'm savouring every one of them just in case it's the last.