Wednesday, February 4, 2009

After the tantrum

I go to lie down after dinner, not feeling so well. So, JP goes about the business of putting Jolie to bed alone.

I hear them in the bathroom right next to our room. The step stool dragging. Doors loudly shutting. (The baby!) Whining overtones drifting to my ears. Sounds of impending mutiny.

Crying. Her loud crying.

The sound of JP walking out into the hall and shutting the door, the momentary magnified cries suddenly muted several notches. I hear his voice, strained. His limit, reached.

I drag myself out of bed and into the harsh bathroom light where Jolie stands half-undressed and suddenly more pliant. I get her dressed, brushed and into bed. She is tired, I decide. Maybe it was that popsicle after dinner. Maybe it was JP and I, mostly talking to each other during dinner, hungrily catching up on each other's work day. Multifactorial, I conclude.

Our fault, probably.

So, I decide that tonight, for the "5 minutes" that I'll linger in her room with the lights out, I will curl up beside her. I rest my head on her pillow, 6 inches from her face. I drape my arm around her and she does the same. I observe my daughter, 6 inches away, taking in the half of her face not sunk into the pillow. It is a beautiful, less in focus half-face. She loves this closeness, I can tell. Repositioning her arm around me, touching my face. She is wildly in love with this closeness. At one point, she lifts up her head to touch me with her nose, then back down.

I am taken aback. I am taking it all in.

"Is it two minutes yet?"

I wait for the question.

"I love you."

"I love you too."
"I love you too."

She takes her ring finger and rubs it gently into her pillow. Then uses her finger to touch her lips gently tracing them with a familiar pattern. Back and forth. Top and bottom. Dabs pillow. Trace. She does this without words, as if by habit, and I see it. It's me. Putting on my lip balm from my tin. It's me.
I laugh.
"Are you putting on lip balm?"
She giggles.
We're both laughing now, one turn after another. She keeps tracing her lips. Back and forth. Top and bottom.
It is five minutes or six or seven and she hugs me with all of her might.

And, I think: I need to do this more. Yes, she needs it too.


  1. I can't believe you would let JP put your kids to bed alone when you're there and able.

    Even if it's just a few minutes to hug her and tug her in, it would mean the world to your daughter.

    Sometimes being a mother (even if it means coming home from a long day of work, and not feeling so well) comes first, and it comes with lots of sacrifice.


  2. Hi KC
    Thare are times to do everything and times to allow someone to help and not feel guilty when it gets bumpy. Recognising your limits and taking some space isn't failing and with precious moments like these you can grow stronger together.
    Hope you feel better today S

  3. Layla - by "not feeling well" I meant "excruciating abdominal pain making it difficult to ambulate." But "not feeling well" sounds much better in the narrative.

    SMS - thank you.

  4. What a sweet image!

    My husband and I also take turns putting down our son. Which means that sometimes, he puts him down when I'm not doing anything else terribly pressing. A father tucking in a child is just as important as a mother tucking in a child.

  5. hexy- thanks..I thought it was a beautiful moment too.

    MammaDoc- yes. They are close and I'm glad for it. Usually, I put my infant son to bed alone and then we put my daughter to bed together.

  6. This is beautiful. I think that we all need more of this.

    There most of the time, both my husband and I put our children to bed. But there are times when one or the other of us is busy or simply just stressed. We're good at reading each other and deciding which one of us it should be. It is better that the children get read to and tucked in by the the person most able, and therefore most pleasant to them.

  7. What a lovely piece.

    The thing I like best about this site is the absence of judging each other. We are all in this together.

    Sentences beginning "I can't believe you would..." are too much for me.

    Hope you feel better.

  8. I'm moved by your tender descriptions and close observations, and Jolie is moved to observe you closely and imitate you so tenderly. I hope you continue to giggle together for a lifetime. Oh, and one day soon you'll see her typing on her pillow (blogging, right?)!!

  9. Isn't it funny how our kids are our own best medicine? Hope you're feeling much much better!

  10. jen- good tears, I hope.

    Katherine- I think so too.

    anon- In total agreement. I don't think I've ever started a sentence like that to someone I didn't know very very well, and those times were in jest. I'm feeling better, thanks.

    T- hmmm...she has pretended to have an "umpooter"...

    MWAS-I'm fully recovered, thanks for asking. Wish I was better at taking my medicine more regularly.

  11. KC, We have lived this very scene, pretty much from start to finish, in our household many, many times! The overtired one parent (no illness even required in our home) taking some time to him/herself at bedtime, the almost equally overtired other parent reaching the breaking point when the bedtime procrastination and tantrums that wake up younger sleeping sibs get to be too much, the tender, instant recovery that one-on-one parent-child time brings, the wondering why we don't do this good stuff so much more. What an honest and beautifully-told story. Your gifts as a storyteller are rivaled by your gifts as a mother, and that's saying something.


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