I just finished tucking my teenager in. So simple.
Up through 8th grade I’d tuck him in every night. I’d help untangle the covers, which were invariably twisted and hanging half off his bed. I’d smooth them out and tell him I loved him. After lingering for a few minutes and recapping bits from the day or previewing the day ahead, I’d get ready to leave. Often, those were the moments when he’d open up about something important. I’d hear about friends, or a girl, whatever was on his mind and we’d linger.
Last year we moved and he started high school. At the same time his hockey practices started and ended much later, meaning that by the time he was ready for bed, I was spent. Bedtimes became rushed. Quick in. Quick out–to finish the dishes or homework or just to unwind. This year has been much the same. No longer has that time been sacrosanct.
Tonight I had the sense that I should linger. Instead of a quick, “goodnight,” I stayed. He announced when I walked in that he didn’t need the covers. We talked…mostly I did. After a while I said, “I understand you may not need these covers. That’s OK, but I could use them for now.” I pulled them up, covering my toes and my shoulder.
We talked…mostly I did. Then he sat up and said, “Well, I guess I could just trade these covers. He pulled off the sheet that was twisted around him and pulled the blanket up to his chin. And as the covers started to peel away, untwist, and get smoothed out. So did his thoughts.
Eventually we stopped talking…mostly I did. He’d been mostly quiet.
What struck me is how much we can lose when we’re just tending to the right now. We used to be close, bonded by bedtime’s stories. Now he feels distant, like he’s forgotten how to tell those stories and maybe like I’ve forgotten how to listen.
The week ahead is outrageously busy. And yet, I don’t think we can afford to wait any more nights to slow down bedtimes and reinstate the storytelling about our lives…mostly his.