Becoming Her Wingman

I sat down with Quinn last night to read her a book before bedtime. It was quiet, her room was lit by just one tiny lamp, and she was all warm from her bath and comfortable in fresh pajamas and just-washed hair that, thanks to her new shampoo, smelled just enough like honey to be pleasant without reminding me that I planned on making waffles for breakfast this morning. I could actually hear my brain sigh with relief as we settled down in the glider together for a few restful moments.

Yeah, right.

No sooner than we closed that book did my beautiful child start grunting and twisting in a pretty impressive effort to wriggle her way from my arms, out of my lap and down my legs to the floor, where she took off way more quickly than a child who still crawls should ever be able to move. She opened her door, threw one glance at me over her shoulder with a laugh that sounded an awful lot like “Bwahaha–gotchyou again, suckah!” and went careening down the hallway–her arms and legs going thumpthumpthump on the hardwood like a car that’s drifted over a rumble strip–into her sister’s room.

David had been wrangling SK into her pajamas (I say wrangling because SK getting dressed at bedtime is a cabaret show of dancing around in front of the mirror, twirling clothes around on fingertips, and giggling acrobatics while her unfathomably patient father attempts to drag a comb through her wet hair. At the end of a long day, you may guess why I usually volunteer to put the Younger to bed). Quinn barged into the room with a squeal and, well, that was that. The sisters were off like fighter jets from a flight deck (David would like me to tell you that those jets would be F/A 18s or F22 Raptors. He also secretly wants to change his name to Maverick).  They scurried back and forth from our bedroom to Saoirse’s, then down the hall and back again, then over stuffed animals and a chair and a couple of errant shoes.

They were loud. So loud. But it was all giggles and laughter and “She’s chasing me!,” so we just chuckled and shook our heads and let them have at it (well, I did throw in a couple of mom-ish “Dave, they’re getting all riled up before bed” admonishments, but that’s not really useful when you’re laughing as you say it because a 15-month-old has just tackled you from a squatting position). Then they moved to the top of SK’s bed, and Quinn was dive-rolling around the mattress, and SK was performing gymnastics moves and when they got to the point where Quinn was gasping for air and SK was kicking her in the head because she was so worked up, we called bedtime.

Yes, I realize that we might’ve been responsible parents and separated them before someone went catapulting off the bed, but have you ever watched your kids just have fun–big, huge, together-type fun, where they can’t stop laughing and they’re too busy interacting with each other to call “Look at me!” for your attention? It was too fun to watch–and too important, I think, to stop. I keep thinking about education, where all teachers know that some of the most higher-order thinking comes from the “teachable moments”–those aha! situations where you’ve laid the groundwork, but something happens–a conversation, a step off the planned path, a random question that blooms into something bigger than the goal you’d expected to meet and–voila! They get it.  The kids understand a concept, love the pride they feel at getting it, and moreover, even have a deeper understanding of it than anybody thought was possible.

It was like that. Quinn is so fascinated with her sister, and SK is just starting to realize that this little girl could actually be fun to have around, and moments like this new bedtime routine are what are going to bring them closer, even if it does bring me a few more gray hairs (okay, a lot of gray hairs. Dang the mid-thirties) in the process. So, if tonight, Quinn goes thumpthumpthumping down the hall to headbutt her sister with excitement, well, so be it. Because even if those last moments before bed aren’t the serene spa scenes all the baby books recommend, as David tries to settle down a worked-up Saoirse to read a book, and I hold a clammy, panting toddler for a few moments before placing her very tired body into her crib, those girls are happy. They are happy and they wake up the next morning looking for each other, and it’s one step closer to making our family as tight-knit and loving as I hope.

That, and all that running around tires them out so much they’re asleep within seconds of lying down. That’s kind of nice, too.

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