Parenting experts often stress the importance of a consistent bedtime routine. When my boys were little, this routine included a bubble bath, footie pajamas, snuggles and bedtime stories. As a working mom, I treasured the chance to spend this time with them. I also remember how utterly exhausted I was on some of those nights. Sometimes the bath didn’t have many bubbles and I picked the shortest book on the shelf, but I always maintained the routine. It was important to me, and not just because the parenting experts said so.
When I Was Little
When I was a little girl, my dad was a UPS driver. He usually got home late, after mom had fed us and given us a bath. Dressed in our nightgowns, my sister and I watched for his truck to pull into the driveway. When we saw the headlights, we shrieked “Daddy’s home!” and ran to meet him at the door. Sometimes there was ice on his mustache when he scooped us up for a chilly kiss that smelled like winter. Mom shooed us up to our room while dad peeled off the many layers of UPS brown he wore to stay warm.
On our matching Raggedy-Ann & Andy beds, we waited for him to bring a glass of water to share. My sister and I both shouted, “Me first, me first!” Every-other night, I got to take the first drink of water. Dad always remembered whose turn it was. We were excited to tell him all about our day, and he listened intently. He teased us with tickles and whisker rubs, and eventually coaxed us under the covers and tucked us in.
On the dresser between our beds was a ceramic night-light depicting Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Dad always left the room and “forgot” to turn it on, forcing us to shout “Mary light!” When he came back to turn it on, we got an extra kiss goodnight. He was tired after a hard day of work, but he always came back to give us an extra kiss goodnight. We knew we were loved.
Cancer’s Cruel Grasp
My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 20 months ago. Recently, my sister and I were helping him settle into his bed. I pulled the covers over him and my sister asked if there was anything else he needed. He looked at us, smiled and said, “Mary light!” I was immediately overwhelmed with the memory of our childhood bedtime routine and burst into tears as I was reminded once again of his love for us.
Last Kiss Goodnight
I found the Mary light tucked away in a closet, and brought it to his room the following week. On November 2nd, the Mary light was on while I held his hand and said goodnight to him one last time. Oh, how I wish I could “forget” to turn it on and go back for one more kiss goodnight.
Always Give the Extra Kiss Goodnight
The parenting experts are right…bedtime routines are important. Even when you are exhausted at your very core, go back and give the extra kiss goodnight. Often, it is the little ways we show our love that mean the most to our children. They will remember these little things, and they will forever know that they are loved.