Last night, I put my five-year old Stella to bed. Well, I snuck in and stole the best part from Rick, who had her in her jammies, teeth brushed and she was in her bed with book in hand, waiting for someone to read to her. I crawled into her bed by her and read her a story.
I love, love, love doing this with Stella. I regret not loving it with my older two, Carly and Lydia. We should have separated them more during the bedtime routine so I could have had more of this one on one time with them. But mostly we did it all together, which made it so much more exhausting and chaotic and filled with fighting and bickering. By the end of the day I just didn’t have the energy to deal, much less enjoy bedtime.
But Stella gets the story alone. And she is so squishy and fresh and funny, and I adore it. She loves the ritual of the hour, and I do too. I read to her, and then I say, “Stella….” as if I am about to begin a great story or tell her a fantastic secret… and she will say, “I know what you are going to say!” I act surprised. “How can you possibly know? You can’t know!” And she giggles that giggle that makes the cells in my body reorganize themselves so they can be permanently attached to her warm belly and her staccato laugh.
“You are going to say, I ADORE you.”
“Whaaaaaat!? How did you know?”
I usually smash my face into the side of her soft neck at this point. I feel so full of the force of my love,I want to breathe her into my body again.
Then, we do magic night cream.
My girls hands, (especially in kindergarten), become so dry in the winter they turn bright red and crack. (I now realize it is a hand-washing and drying issue.) It’s awful.
I have a bottle of Aquaphor by her bed that I rub into her little hands, and we chant, “Magic night cream, magic night cream, do your job, do your job…” a few times. Just massaging her squishy hands, still chubby with the vestiges of toddlerhood just greases up the magic of the nighttime ritual. Last night, I bent to kiss her cheek and she grabs my hair with her lubed up fists and says, “I have one more thing to tell you, mom.”
“What’s that?” I lean in, her lips right in my ear, bracing for another sweet declaration of her love for me, and she says,
“Boca gum staaaaaaaah… bock, bock, bock bote bote…”
This is what she believes is the first line of the song “Gangnum Style.”
Which brings on the giggles, and my heart bursts like an over-filled water balloon and I leave feeling like tomorrow, I can do this whole parenting gig all over again, just for the magic night cream, and that laugh.
I am holding tight to this right now, as I am desperately trying to remind myself to be present. To ignore the phone, burning a hole in the butt pocket of my yoga pants. To stop checking off the time I am with my kids the same way I check off my chore list. To quit longing for that glass of wine and a good book, or a moment of peace devoid of Meghan Trainor on repeat and constant bickering. To just Be in my body. Be alive. In the moment. RIGHT NOW. There are sensations. And feelings. And breathing in and out. And those things must be noticed, if I am to live a full and meaningful life. I am trying to wake up and BE.
It’s fucking hard.
So I did some searching, and realized that Stella’s magic night cream is my life line. My anchor. My one moment I can count on, where I am fully in my body.
Right then, I am out of my mind. I am in my fingertips, smoothing her chapped hands, feeling the dimples still in her knuckles and the meaty part of her thumbs as they connect to her palm, and I don’t need to tell her that I adore her, she knows because my love is a vibrating energy that is coating her, thick and protective. It’s better than the magic night cream.
It is the invitation to be here, and nowhere else.
Magic night cream, magic night cream, do your job, do your job.