By Danielle Gambino
I stopped reading to my child.
I don’t know when it happened. I can’t tell you why I stopped. I just know that it did. And that I have failed her. Somewhere between having Joey and juggling bath and bed times. Somewhere between packing up in Naples and unpacking in Birmingham. Somewhere between my impatience from a long day and haste to put her to sleep.
I have failed.
At least that’s what I felt like tonight. A failure.
Our routine went as normal. Dinner was quiet, as it was just me and the kids tonight. We played our dinner time games. “What was the best part of your day?” Mini helped me clean up and raced to get ready for the bath. Just like every night, they played together in the tub for a while. Blowing bubbles, splashing, the occasional struggle over who got to play with the fishies. Normal stuff. I took a quick glance at my watch and realized we were cutting it close to bedtime.
If you’re a mom you understand. There is a bedtime. A “goal” time I should say. Dinner + Bath + Bed become a race against the clock. It is when I am sitting there, acting lifeguard, in the bathroom that I start to get antsy. I think of the food Joey tossed over his high chair tray, waiting to be swept up. The wet clothes in the washing machine. The counter tops that need to be wiped and the crock pot that needs a good scrubbing. Suddenly I feel rushed. Rushed against my mental clock. To have them asleep before the “goal” time. So that I can continue with what I have to do around the house, prepare for the next day and, hopefully, just hopefully, jump into bed a little early, because it is at this time every night that my energy levels hit a wall.
So I pulled them out of the tub. Brushed their teeth. Hurried to zip up their footie pajamas. Flipped on Mini’s lamp and gave her a kiss. I instructed her to read some books while I fed the baby. I told her I would be in shortly.
I fed Joey. Gave him kisses. Tucked him in. Made sure he had a crib full of pacifiers and plenty of water in his humidifier. I carefully shut the door behind me and walked down the hall to Mini’s room.
There she was. Propped up on her pillows. A pile of books next to her on the bedspread. Shoe la la. Presenting Tallulah. Frozen. Storybook Princesses. They were all there. And there she was. Reading. In the glow of her lamp, my 3-year-old daughter was reading herself a bedtime story. When she heard me at the doorframe she finished her sentence, she closed the book and patted the bed. That was my cue. That was the routine. To remove the books from the bed and climb on in with her. To play soothing music and whisper secrets to each other until her eyelids closed.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling of failure. Seeing her read her own bedtime stories. Making up her own stories as she flipped pages to uncover new pictures. Sure, I come in to her room every night and we have our nighttime routine. But since when did that routine no longer involve reading a bedtime story to my child? When did I get so rushed to beat my “goal” time that I neglected a nightly ritual that I once thought was so important. That is so important.
I laid there for while, long after her eyes closed for the night and she drifted off to sleep.
As mothers, we try so hard to be there for it all. Kiss every boo boo. Clap after every living room dance show. Tuck our babies in every night. Read them stories. Sometimes our plates get too full. Sometimes we don’t even notice how full they are until they spill over. I promised myself I would get a pass on this one. That I will not feel guilty. That I am sure the past few months of not reading bedtime stories will not permanently damage my child. That she will still go to college. That maybe, just maybe, she enjoyed reading to herself. That maybe it’s not a horrible thing for her to do things alone.
I am not a failure. I am a mom. I am doing my best. I will trip and fall but I will get back up again. Because motherhood is hard. And it doesn’t come with instructions. So it’s OK to screw up sometimes. As long as you get back on your feet and learn from it. Because we are bound to make mistakes. Act selfishly. Lose patience. It’s all part of the gig.
So tonight, when I close my eyes and drift off to sleep, I will think of my babies. I will think of the stories I will read to them. And I will tell myself “you have not failed.” And I will repeat it over and over again until I believe it.
**This post appeared originally on Mini’s Mama blog.
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