Looking Back: Bedtime With Michael

Carole Sheron, Manchester, Kentucky

Editor’s Note: “Bedtime With Michael” was originally published in the May-June 1974 issue of La Leche League News. The first issue of La Leche League News, the bimonthly publication for members, was published in 1958. The name changed to New Beginnings in 1985. New Beginnings continued to be published by La Leche League International until it was transferred to LLL USA in 2010. In 2014, it transitioned to its current blog format at www.lllusa.org/blog/.

I had saved putting him to bed until last because he is the hardest. Michael Patrick…three years old. His daddy and I call him the blond bombshell. His five brothers and sisters have all been tucked in. Michael is sitting on his bed, impatiently waiting for me to lie down with him. I’m tired from a busy day; all I want is a leisurely bath and to go to bed early. Michael is urging me to “hurry up and lie down with me” and I wonder where I went wrong. Why won’t this child go to bed by himself?

Pretty soon we’re both tucked into Michael’s single bed. Very cozy. Nurtured on the closeness of the nursing relationship, Michael is a toucher. His arms are wrapped around my neck, his legs plopped across mine, his silky blond hair snuggled against my cheek. I savor the moment, but also wish he’d hurry and go to sleep. I have things to do and I’m tired.

The silence lasts but a minute. “Mommy, your teeth look pretty and clean.”

“Thank you, Michael. I just brushed them.”

“Mommy, why does teeth get dirty?”

“Because food gets on them.”

Silence again. Then “Mommy, how does the water get off your toothbrush after you put it away in the cupboard?” Mentally I discard the word evaporation and answer, “Because the air moves around it inside the cupboard and dries it off.”

Silence again.

“Mommy, how was I made?”

Oh, wow! I’m tired, half asleep and I’ve got the story of reproduction ahead of me.

“Mommy, why don’t pigs have hair?” My mind boggles at the sudden change in subject. “Well,” I begin gamely, “if pigs had hair like you and me, when they wallowed in the mud it would get all stuck in their hair and make them messy.” Thankfully he’s satisfied with my improvised answer.

He turns over and snuggles down into his covers. I think the magic moment has arrived, but not yet. “Mommy…” And I am entertained with a long and complicated adventure story plucked from the world of pretend involving himself and his imaginary horse Trigger. As he talks, his eyes get rounder and rounder and his eyebrows disappear under his long, blond bangs as his face becomes more animated. Finally, the story is over and he begins to yawn. He turns toward me again, takes my hand in both of his and is almost instantly asleep.

Toddler sleepingSuddenly I am caught up by those feelings of tenderness and overwhelming good will that a sleeping child bestows. There is something about sleep that transforms children into angels. Tangled lashes lie against cheeks still soft and round with a hint of babyhood still lingering. I gently kiss the soft mouth that in infancy searched eagerly for my breast and the milk that was his sole nourishment for the first six months. At almost two years that same mouth was known on many occasions to demand, “I want to nurse.” And then one day to sit up from nursing and lament, “I don’t like it.” And he was weaned.

As I slip quietly from his bed, I am suddenly aware of the instinct of children to demand what they need. Busy with five other children and a full day, were it not for his bedtime habits, I might not have found time for this special hour with Michael, for cuddling and just learning to know him. I am thankful [for our evening routine], and even the knowledge that he’ll probably be back in our bed before midnight can’t destroy the peace that I feel at this moment.

Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

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