The Nighttime Dance
It’s getting late. The sun has set and I can’t hear the sounds of the children playing on our street anymore. There is no rhythmic thump, thump of the basketballs that the teenage boys are forever dribbling out front and no murmurs of the young girls, whose laughter and shrieks I can usually hear until after dinnertime.
Which means that everyone is inside and most likely getting to bed. Which I am trying very unsuccessfully to do with my own children.
I can usually break Shaila early. She no longer has the will to fight me too hard after 8:30 and her debating skills are questionable at best. While she may whine a little, after a little coddling and ego boosting (Wow, baby! You read that book that you have been reading for the past 30 days perfectly!), she will usually retire in the cocoon of the stuffed animals she lays out “just so.”
While we are not a religious family, I do try to teach the kids to say their prayers every night. I don’t know why it matters to me so much for them to do this every night, but it comforts me. Since we are neither Hindu or Catholic in this house – an impossible blend of both – we have compromised and come up with something that works for us.
We start with the traditional, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” The only thing I change in that is that I don’t teach my kids to say “and if I die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take.” That’s not very cheerful is it? I think if “The Little Mermaid” gives them nightmares, that it’s probably NOT a good idea to talk about dying in the middle of the night.
Instead we say, “and guide me safely through the night and bring me to the morning light.” Which gives me warmer fuzzies, you know?
And to close we say “Amen. Jai Ma.” Jai Ma means the Divine Mother in Hindi.
And then we say an ancient Sanskrit prayer that my father taught me when I was little and would say every night with me before bed.
Tvameva Maata Cha Pitaa Tvameva
Tvameva Bandhush Cha Sakhaa Tvameva
Tvameva Vidya Dravinam Tvameva
Tvameva Sarvam Mama Deva Deva
I like our nighttime prayer routine. I actually think its kind of…pretty.
Not bad for a bunch of heathens.
“Off to bed, Shaila,” and I tuck her in, giving her a kiss and closing the door. I brace myself for what’s coming next. I slowly turn around. To face the opponents.
Yes, he’s there. I look him in the eyes, unsure of what lies ahead, not knowing just how hard he is going to fight me tonight. I immediately sense his defenses coming up and the challenge in his eyes as he looks at me. Like two opponents preparing for a duel, we slowly circle, trying to intimidate the other.
The thing is he’s only three. And he’s really short.
But don’t be fooled. He is a worthy opponent.
The dance begins.
“Come on, Nico. It’s time for bed.”
“No.” Adamant. With a fair amount of attitude thrown in.
“Seriously buddy. It’s time for bed.”
“I want Daddy!” And there he goes again.
He looks up at me with his big brown eyes, the ones that usually make me melt and looks like he wants me to disappear.
“I. Want. Daddy,” he says, louder and more pronounced this time, just in case I didn’t hear him the first time.
This happens pretty much everyday. At some point in the not so distant past (I mean, he is only three), I must have done something to really piss him off. Maybe I didn’t let him watch enough “Bubble Guppies.” Maybe he doesn’t like that I am growing out my layers. Or that I changed my highlights back to caramel. Maybe he wishes that the clothes I bought him from Carter’s were just a bit cooler.
A bit more hip.
There could be a myriad of reasons why he has been going through this phase for some time now. At my most self-pitying moments, I will think, “he just doesn’t love me as much as his dad.”
And let’s be honest, this is probably true. At least for now.
And I think John is a great father. Recently, Nico had an impacted stool (yeah, yeah, I know – ick) and John was the one who got down with Nico while my Dr. Brother walked us through how to get the stool out.
After lubing his finger up pretty good with Vaseline, it was John who went and tried to search for gold while Nico sat on the floor on all floors saying, “Why do you have your hands in my hiny, Daddy?” while I cried loudly and tried not to faint.
And hoping really, really hard that my son would never go to prison after that visual was lodged in my head.
But it irks me. I know that girls love their daddies and boys love their mommies. In my house, I do think I have the edge with Shaila but not with Nico. He is fully in Daddy’s court.
But I know for now, and let’s just call it hypothetical, that if the house was burning down and say that Nico was in the arms of a Fireman and the Fireman told Nico he could only pick ONE parent, I would be the one going down. He and the Fireman would pull John safely to safety. Shaila, of course, would be safe.
I hope that Nico would cry for me at least.
Eventually he gives in. He grows too tired to fight me. He clings to me and begs to sleep in my bed. And like a kid whose been bullied my the mean girls and then is offered to sit at their lunch table, I let him.
He curls up in the bed next to me, with his mangled “Blue Dogs” the blanket doggies that our dear friends gave us when he was born. One is completely eviscerated, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
“I love you, Mommy. I love you so much,” and he holds my head between his two little hands and kisses me on the lips.
“I love you too, baby.”
“And I love Daddy too!”
Yes, I a little birdie told me.
But just like that, I am putty in his hands
And it’s the end of the dance. I am tired and I was never much good at dancing anyway. Except the Macarena. Oh, and the Electric Slide.
I do those very well.