"Good night. I love you. Sleep well. Have nice dreams. I hope you wake up happy. Tell Mom (or Dad) that."
That's how every night ends with my kids. This bedtime mantra wasn't always so long, and the last part was tacked on after Ron OR I--instead of us both--became the one to tuck them in at night. But it's grown over the last few years to encompass everything they think they need to say to us before they fall asleep--everything they need to hear back from us even if only as, "You,too. I love you."
I was reading a friend's blog yesterday in which she says that she tries to wake up every morning full of joy for what lies ahead. For me, that attitude can be rather overly optimistic. I'm glad it works for her; I just haven't reached that peak myself yet. I don't find "joy" in errands to be run, dentist appointments to which I need to drag my kids (or myself), phone calls I need to make, bills to pay, and so forth. But most mornings, I do wake up happy. And that's enough for me to get out of bed and tackle, with or without finesse, my schedule.
Part of that schedule yesterday was hanging plastic flower garlands in Emma's room. I've been promising to do it since we moved here in August. It was a compromise, since what she really wanted was for me to repaint the room, complete with a garden mural on at least one wall. The room's current paint job was perfectly acceptable, however--not a scuff or scratch mark on it. Granted, it's a light, mossy green--not exactly girlie--but it didn't "need" a makeover. And I'm not an artist. Sure, I can picture what a mural on her wall could look like, but there was no way I was going to bring it to fruition either by my own hand or by putting money in someone else's. So we agreed to a new bedspread and to flower garlands draped along the chair rail that rests about 18 inches from the ceiling. Her birthday tea party last month was the push I needed to at least buy the (admittedly tacky) garlands so I could decorate the kitchen like a garden since it was too cold to be outside that day. And after four weeks of looking at them in my windows, I decided it was time to move them upstairs. Another trip to the dollar store gave me enough to make it all the way around her room, and with less finesse than my mind had pictured. Still, I finished it and used the leftover garlands to wrap around her bed's foot- and headboard.
When she got home from school, I sent her upstairs to take a look. I could hear her whispering in awe and figured she didn't notice the tacks showing or the lack of pattern in arranging the daisies and roses and whatever that other flower was supposed to be. She came back downstairs all grins, ate a quick snack, and asked if she could go back to her room to read. She was up there for most of the late afternoon.
The night before, she'd come into my room to wake me after she'd had a bad dream. She has lots of bad dreams and comes to wake me every time. I cuddle with her for a moment and then send her away with assurances that the dreams aren't real. So before bedtime last night, I told her that the flowers were there to take away the bad dreams, and that if she did have a nightmare, she needed to open her eyes, look around at her flowers, and realize nothing bad can happen in a garden room. She liked that idea. And this morning, she said she slept well, no bad dreams at all. Then she scurried off to school, full of joy for whatever lies ahead today.
We wish all sorts of things for our children, but mostly we wish them that kind of joy for the rest of their lives. A bedtime mantra may not be the magic words necessary for that joy, but if they believe it is then that's enough. As they get older, I'm recognizing that they also need reassurances. They need promises that the doors are locked and that the bad guys are far away. They need garden rooms and daisy-bedazzled headboards and space in Mom and Dad's bed for when the bad dreams do sneak through the petals. Simon has outgrown the need to repeat the phrase to us every night. Although once in a while, he'll say it before heading up to his room on the third floor, and I'm glad to see the little boy in him still on those nights. I don't have fantasies of my children needing me like this for the rest of their lives--quite the opposite. I have fantasies of them leaving home with enough stowed-away joy and confidence to tackle all their days ahead and to know that even when we're not tucking them in at night anymore, we're still saying, "I love you. Sleep well. Have nice dreams. I hope you wake up happy."