Posted by: Kate | June 21, 2010

Up Past Bedtime

I’ve been getting in trouble, these past few months. Not major, big-time, call-in-the-Feds sort of trouble (which would probably be fascinating, but I think I’ve had quite enough interesting already this year), but the kind that leaves Willem – and, before she returned to New York, my mother – either shaking his head ponderously or glaring righteously, depending on the circumstances.

My infractions? I’m playing with the kids.

I know, it’s awful. Can you imagine? I should be flogged.

OK, no, that’s both unreasonably sarcastic and completely unfair to Willem. He’s not an ogre, and he keeps his judgments to himself most of the time. But it has to be frustrating for him to watch, because my new habit has been to add more activities – crafts, reading aloud, just random projects I come up with – to the evenings. Before I got sick, things were already fairly busy, and we had to maintain a firm schedule in order to make sure that all of the necessary chores, homework, bath, trumpet practice, and so on, happened before bedtime. Now those things all still have to happen, plus I’m adding in new stuff, and the inevitable result is that bedtime gets delayed more often than not.

If the kids were yawning all the time, or had become unreasonably difficult to dredge out of bed in the mornings, then I would stop adding stuff onto the evenings… and on the days when they do struggle to wake up, or act tired and/or crabby in the evenings, then it’s an early bedtime all around for a few nights. But lots of times (Willem says it’s more often than not, I think it’s just more often than it used to be), I’m ignoring the clock and following my impulses.

Because, as I just learned in all too vivid detail, life is short and unpredictable. And when I look back at my kids’ childhood, I want to remember giving in and reading just one more chapter, building just one more block tower, cutting out just one more Shrinky Dinks shape. I want them to remember music, and dancing around even though we are among the whitest, most uncoordinated groups of individuals I know. I want there to be little flashes of color and fun in my memories – and, I hope, in theirs – instead of it being all long stretches of structure and routine. That structure and routine is important, and I’m still strict about making sure chores and homework are done before we play, but play is important, too.

I don’t want to be unfair to myself, pre-illness, either. It’s not that I never played with the kids, I just didn’t do it often enough. I let myself think that it was more important to get them in bed on time than it was to allow the “just one more time,” and I held the role of Disciplinarian pretty much all the time, while Willem was the reigning Fun Parent. Play, for me, was something that happened on weekends, and only rarely on weeknights… and I would give Willem exactly the same Look that he gives me, now, when he would decide to push bedtime a little later due to playtime.

It’s one more in an apparently endless list of ways that things have changed around here, since I got sick. The good news is, there are only two more school nights left, and then we’ve got a whole summer’s worth of staying up later without needing to set an alarm clock for 6:00 the next morning. Maybe by the fall, we’ll have figured out a new balance – though I’m not willing to return to the old, no-play-with-Mom version of balance, so we’ll have to come up with something new.

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