I have said goodnight to my children approximately six thousand times.
I lay them down in their cribs after kissing the tops of their soft heads, inhaling deeply to catch that delicious sweet baby scent. One night I smelled that scent for the very last time. I don’t remember when my youngest stopped smelling like a baby, or when that last night was. But I do still inhale deeply when I hug my children, as if the memory of that scent that will keep them with me a little longer. The sniffing is not well received by adolescents, so I do it softly and when no one else is looking.
In their big-kid beds, I settled next to them and read aloud – first just me, and later, taking turns. One night, on a night I don’t remember now, we read together for the last time. I wistfully glance at the neglected stories strewn about their messy bookshelves; these books hold years of goodnights within their pages.
The stories are no longer told, but I still snuggle and tuck every night. I climb over the half dozen pillows on my daughter’s queen bed, and nestle in the cocooned sanctuary she creates each evening. I jockey for position in my son’s twin bed, grateful that his lean frame leaves enough room for me to lie on my side next to him. We chat for a few minutes, and I brush the hair from their foreheads in the universal way of mothers.
Sometimes I am settled in my own bed before my teenagers are in theirs. Sometimes is most times since high school began, as homework demands and the adolescent body clock prohibit a reasonable bedtime. On those late evenings, my children climb into my bed for our goodnights. I tuck them in, snuggle, and sing the Shema, the Hebrew prayer we always sing together. The prayer is the constant; no matter whose bed we are in, it is always sung. When I am not home, they sing it with Matt, or sing it with one another. It completes their day and ushers them into their dreams. I have sung the Shema to or with my children approximately six thousand times.
I kiss them goodnight and watch them leave, to go back to their own rooms and their own beds. One day, they will tuck themselves in every night. One night will be our last one to sing the Shema together. I don’t know when that night will be, but I will not let it pass unrecognized like the other Lasts. I will inhale deeply, hug long and hard, and brush the hair from my grown-up babies’ faces.
We will not sing the Shema together forever, but I hope my children will sing it to themselves. I hope they will know that their mother is singing it too, to usher them into their dreams.
This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post: “When the kids go to bed, I…”