My dear bloggy pal over at Diary of a Mom writes about the precious bedtime ritual between her and her daughter. Rhema and I also have a bedtime routine that is such a wonderful time of togetherness that I look forward to it every day. It’s our time to truly connect without distraction or interruption. If I have to be out late at night, when I get home I am always hopeful that she’s still awake. I find her in her top bunk bed, waiting for me, for us.
It goes like this:
I crawl up into her bed – all 30 plus years of me, and sit her in my lap.
We beam at each other.
“Wheels on the Bus?” I ask.
She lifts my arms, and I begin to sing the Wheels on the Bus song. We do all of the hand motions. She loves it! She tilts her head back, squeezes her eyes shut, and grins hard. Her favorite part is when the baby on the bus goes wah, wah, wah!
We’ve been doing the Wheels on the Bus song together since she was 1 year old. After three years of singing it nearly everyday, Rhema will now occasionally provide the Beep, Beep, Beep when the horn on the bus goes Beep, Beep, Beep. We’ve added a verse on the end in which I sing and sign “And Mommy says to Rhema, I love you, I love you, I love you. All through the town.”
After our song is done, Rhema lies down, and I lean over her and let her mess up my hair. She loves to flap strands of my hair across her face. She tickles her forehead, her nose, and her cheeks with my hair.
Gazing into her beautiful, brown eyes, I bask in her attention.
Then she will suddenly try and gouge my eyes out with her fingers. This is fine because as she is going after my eyeballs, she will quietly announce,
Next she sticks a finger up each of my nostrils. I’m careful not to move for fear of permanent damage. And then she says,
She touches my lips.
Then her little hands cover my ears and she whispers triumphantly,
“Yah, Rhema!” I say and put her hands on my hair, and I say, “Hair.”
She has not said hair yet, but I know one day it will come. She only recently began naming the aforementioned parts of the face, and she only does so on me and… uh… Mr. Potato Head.
Then I will recite the same Bible verse to her, touching her lips with my finger every time I say the word ‘mouth’, and drawing an imaginary heart on her chest every time I say the word ‘heart.’
Rhema, The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is LORD”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
A kiss, A “night, night”, and an “I love you” from me and I am out the door, with a soaring heart, Medussa-like hair, hurting eyeballs and a picked-clean nose.
Today was not a good day for us. So awful in fact that I cannot bear to go into the details, except to say that after one day on the new anti-seizure med, the Keppra Monster turned her into a raging, thrashing, screaming, self-injurious child.
It was a long, frightening, disheartening night for me alone with the kids. By the end of the evening, I felt desperate and undone. Oh God, where is my little girl? Beneath the bastille of the medication, the autism, the sensory overload, the frustration, the confusion, where is my little girl??
I heaved a flailing, brainsick child into her top bunk. Clearly there would be no bedtime routine tonight.
I was ready to flee just when her hand grabbed mine. I turned back in surprise. She was quiet. For the first time all day she was quiet.
In that moment, I imagined what her voice would sound like. I am honestly not sure I know – or remember – what her voice sounds like because she so rarely speaks. And when she does speak, it’s usually a whisper or a mimic – someone else’s voice. But as she held my hand, in my head, I heard her say ever so softly,
“Come on, Mommy. It’s o.k. Climb up. Let’s sing our song.”
I brushed one small teardrop from my face.
Climbed up into her bed.
And sang our song.