Most of the time, I enjoy putting The Mouse to bed. Parents understand what I mean by “most of the time”. Despite what Hollywood or TV or other modern fairytales may tell us, it is neither a comedic tale of rascally hi-jinx or a time when the tyke wears the parent to exhaustion and is still going strong. Except when that is what happens. It is one of life’s ultimate paradoxes. Sometimes it is a sweet, simple, loving event with sleepy eyes and stories and songs, yawns and nighty-nights-sleep-tights-don’t-let-the-bed-bugs-bite sweetness. Sometimes it ends in tears, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. When I start doing that, The Wife usually takes over. But most of the time, it is a chance to read a story to The Mouse, sing her a song, let her “climb the Poppa tree” (I kneel at the bed side and she climbs up my back and over my head, tumbling into the bed in something akin to scaling the peaks of Kilimanjaro or a single character version of Jack and Jill) and then a kiss goodnight with sweet dream wishes. Usually followed by a couple of last minute questions about the world or a request to be rocked. Perhaps a snack. Complaints about Lucy snoring (the dog snores like a lumberjack… or a linebacker… or that roommate in college). Maybe another story? Or another song? Asking to sleep in our bed. Or with Nana. I’m thirsty. Can I sleep with Pooh? No, not that Pooh, the big one. Lucy snores. My blankets are crooked. Can I have Monkey? Ok, it can be quite involved, but I usually enjoy it.
The main reason I enjoy it is the questions she asks me as we go about our nightly bedtime routine(which ever one it is). She started asking “questions” when she realized I could be distracted by them and allow her few more minutes before having to ‘go to sleep’. The Mouse is amazingly inventive about her questions and distraction ploys. The first few times went something like this:
“Poppa, I have a question.”
“What is it, Mouse?”
“Once upon a time…”
“That’s not a question, that’s a story.”
“Poppa, I have another question.”
“What is it, Love?”
[singing] “Twinkle, twinkle little star…”
“Honey, that’s not a question either. That’s a song.”
“Oh, Poppa, Poppa!”
“I love you.”
[Cue orchestral swells of heart strings]
“I love you, too, babygirl.”
“Can I have a drink of water?”
It took a bit for her to figure out what questions were, but once she nailed it down, she could gain another 10-15 minutes before I managed to close the door. The questions run the gambit from the simple of where Momma or Nana is to much more complex queries about things in her world. The Wife and I are pretty much agreed that we answer her questions truthfully, to the best of our ability and as understandable as we can make them, which can be surprising complex. Question time is interspersed during stories or songs or after or before or all of the above.The older she gets (since when is soon to be four old?), the more complex and hard to answer the questions become, simply because I’m discovering how few answers I actually have.
Now the stories being currently read are simple ones: Fairytales, Dr. Seuss, and the like, usually ones she has heard a few (hundred) times before, but always what she asks for. There is a much shorter rotation in the current song list between Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Silent Night. And one night the question was asked after a song. It was a doozy. She asked me if Silent Night was about her.
Now, I don’t get into very specific details about what I believe, for various reasons. And I’m not going into any details here. But I can tell you this much. Silent Night is about The Mouse, at least it is for me. She is my ‘savior’. Child of God. Love’s pure light.
The Mouse is a miracle in my world. She is the child I never thought I would have and had given up on ever having. I had come to the ‘realization’ that the chances of me having a child were in the ‘not-gonna-happen’ category and had made my peace with that. I am a school teacher by profession and by choice (yes, I am certified… or certifiable… depends on who you ask…). I deal with so many kids on a daily basis that have little (if any) familial, let alone parental, support. I can’t tell you how heart breaking it is to have kids want to hang out at school because of what they are avoiding going home to, if you can ever call some of these living situations a home. I had become content with being the in loco parentis for a lot of the kids. A handful even called (and call) me various versions of ‘Dad’. I of course was very limited in what I could be and do for them, but I tried to be some sort of positive influence. And I had my heart broken on more than one occasion for more than one reason. Still do. But, like the starfish thrower, I keep trying. Maybe it makes a difference to at least this one. But I digress. I digress frequently. If you hadn’t already noticed.
Anyway. Now The Mouse was (if it really makes any difference) planned, at least as much as any child is. The Wife and I married in our 30’s (me later than her) and agreed that we wanted a child (or children… it depends on whose version you listen to, as is true most of the stories of our relationship… just ask her who chased whom… and who got into whose canoe… and then ask me for the real story… yes, I’m digressing again…). Now, being educated folk, we knew that as ‘later in life’ wanna-be parents, and since neither of us had procreated previously, we were unsure how long it would take to (or even if we could) have a child. So color us surprised when on Mother’s Day (Irony, table for two) in May of 2007 when that little line appeared (We actually called my mother to confirm how we were supposed to read the EPT test. Did the line have to be really dark, or just a little dark? Can you be just a little pregnant?). I was so certain it was wrong, so desperate to not have my hopes crushed (if that makes any sense), I refused to believe it until I heard it from the horse’s (doctor’s) mouth. Neigh Neigh Neigh. Whoah Nelly. The Wife was preggers. The-Child-Who-Would-Become-Known-As-The-Mouse was on the way.