Apple Slices & Saying Goodnight
Like any three year old, Noodle has a tough time settling down at night. In an ongoing effort to make us feel as if we don’t feed and water him adequately, he always asks for an apple and something to drink. He also always has to get up once to pee, typically a few minutes after we’ve said our last goodnights and settled into our comfy chairs to catch up with the world.
You know what I really mean. There’s no settling; there’s falling in an exhausted heap. And there’s no catching up with the world. There’s cruising social media, giggling at distorted cat pictures, and tumbling into the vortex that invariably dumps you on the seedy side of youtube. (I have a nasty habit of using search terms that begin with a noun and end with “fail.” Examples: “chainsaw fail,” “arm wrestling fail,” and “trampoline fail.” This neither ends well nor early, and often demonstrates the sad reality of meme-hangover. Surely you’ve felt this: the coffee-soaked morning drag after a night of giggle-snorting over Double Rainbows and Sad Keanu. I can’t say I recommend it to anyone.)
Lately I have been making a conscious effort to stay calm at Noodle’s bed time. Tonight, channelling Laid Back Dad, when he asked for the nightly apple, I sliced one into semi-circles and put the pieces in a small bowl. I brought it to his bed, knelt beside him, and watched him eat. He held the bowl in his lap while he crunched each slice into a happy face, and smiled back at each one as if he’d never seen such a delightful thing. He asked me “why did you get juicy apples?” and immediately remarked that he’d “never heard about juicy apples.” Before I could answer, he asked “how did you get that?” I’m not entirely sure what he meant, but these days I never do. Many of his “whys” terminate in my response that “I don’t know.” (I think it’s important for kids to hear that phrase; it scares far too many adults into misplaced self-assurance.)
He chomps and snorts — he’s been sick — and exaggerates his chewing, because his innate sense of slapstick tells him it’s funny. I appreciate his budding sense of humor and laugh along with him to encourage it. “Mmmm that’s good” as he sets down the skin and immediately picks up a fresh slice. I watch his cheeks and chin waggle as he chews as only a little kid’s face does. I like to watch him; it’s charmingly sloppy. Charming to me, that is. It wouldn’t be to you, unless you’re an aficionado of messy eating. I hold out hope that such a thing doesn’t exist.
One piece after another, he gets closer to the bottom of the bowl. There was a time when I would secretly wish him to finish fast so I could get out of his room and get on with my night. Not so these days. Like every night, he’ll get through the apple slices at his usual leisurely pace. He’ll lay his head down and ask for one last cuddle. Lately, he grabs me with both arms around my neck, pulls my cheek to his, and whispers in my ear that he loves me as I relish his soft skin against my ruddy old face. I don’t lament my getting older so much as I lament his. I want this to last, but it can only go on so long.
One day he will lay his head down with someone else. Someone will have filled my shoes — made him laugh when he felt let down, let him cry it out when there was nothing left to say. Someone will accept his flaws, temper his obsessions, keep him in check with a firm but fair hand — a referee stepping in to keep his fight moving forward like it should.
These are the moments, watching him crunch his slices of apple, giggling at the crooked smile that each one becomes, looking back at me with his cinnamon eyes, and soft cheeks puffing as he chomps away. This is parenting, I think to myself. Me. Noodle. Settling down together. And suddenly I’m flooded by all the times I think one day I’ll have my life back — but, this is the moment I’ll be reaching for later. There’s nothing to get back; there is this, and this is fleeting. One day I’ll be the one who used to bring him apple slices. But I take comfort in the thought that he’ll do the same when it comes time to settle his own little boy down to sleep.
Have you found ways to slow down and enjoy what your kids enjoy? Share a comment!
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