The boys and I headed upstairs 65 minutes ago, having agreed fairly easily on three books that we'd read before bed. I agreed to definitely read two, and as much of the third as we could get through in our allotted time.
We breezed through The Robot and the Bluebird (sad ending, but lovely illustrations) and moved on to Jumangi. Zach loved it, but Luke hid under the blankets in fear! With a child who fears bad dreams, I couldn't end on that note. So, with all the optimism I could muster, we picked up Zathura (answering the question - what happens to the Jumanji game at the end of Jumanji?). I had no idea, but the boys had seen the movie, so they followed along with the book with eager anticipation and advanced knowledge -- and no fear, thankfully!
After 45 minutes of reading, we headed off to bed.
I tucked each of them in. Kissed each a couple of times. Layed down and began praying. Was interrupted by Zach, who had two special prayer requests. Began praying again. Then Luke interrupted with three requests of his own. Prayers complete, Zach crawled back out of bed to use the restroom one more time. Then Luke crawled out of bed. Then I tucked them both back in. Ran downstairs for a puke bucket ... which is most likely more of a comfort item than necessity, thank goodness. Settled the puke bucket in the kid's bed. And had been seated in the living room for fewer than 90 seconds before Luke showed up in tears. He needed more cuddling and more prayers to ward off bad dreams.
As I left Luke the last time, I promised the "five minute trick" (check on him in five minutes) and he asked if I could shorten it to a three minute trick tonight. I'd already shortened it from ten to five, but I readily agreed to his proposal. I think he was asleep before I reached his door.
As I was lying there with my youngest son, it was tempting to inwardly complain about lengthy bedtime routines and manipulative children who will do anything to delay sleep - and rob me of my "me time". About a husband who "gets" to miss many of the bedtime hassles - you know, calling up to kids, insisting that if they giggle one more time they'll lose a privilege. But Bryan doesn't just get to miss the hassle ... he misses the blessings. The whispered talks. The confessions of the heart. The extra cuddles. The marriage proposals. Those few moments where the kids actually stay still and melt into your arms. Overheard discussions among brothers who share a room. Inside jokes and laughter shared between best friends ... who can't hit each other at the moment because one's in the top bunk while the other is in the bottom bunk.
Knowing just how drastically Zach has changed between ages 5 and 8, I know full well that these days are numbered. Before long, my boys will read quietly to themselves; taking Mom out of the story reading mix. And not long after that, Zach will be staying up later than me!
So, instead of complaining that bedtime sometimes takes an hour ... I'll cherish the relatively still, relatively lovely, hour that I got with my kids today. And pray that tomorrow brings another.