Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How Many Clicks?

Just moments ago, I stood on our driveway waving goodbye to my oldest child as he scootered away for another day of school. This kid wakes up raring to go, eats his breakfast, gets himself ready and prefers to be waiting by the doors of the school when they are opened at 7:45. All the while he is getting ready, he is chattering about what he looks forward to: his teachers, his schoolmates and science.

I love this kid.

As a parent, we all hear the old adages: "the days are long but the years are short", "they are only young once" and anything else meant to encourage a sleep-deprived and frustrated demographic to treasure the time when their children are really young. Sometimes we manage it and other days we just survive the hard days and try not to feel too badly about the treasuring that may or may not have occurred. And then they hit this age when they are self-cleaning little conversationalists and you talk about life and love and science and God with them and wonder how you got so lucky and how your family became what it is.

Along the way of just doing life, we develop these little traditions. Things that define our family, things that build into our relationships with our kids and our spouse that become distinctly us. I assume these are the things we'll remember when old: monkey bread on Christmas morning right after opening presents, family band times after dinner, camp-ins in the living room. And all the littler, day-to-day things that feel mundane but really make up the significance of this time in our lives.

Every night, we go through the same old (seemingly insignificant) bedtime routine. Snack, drink, reading, feed the guinea pigs, brush teeth, floss, mouthwash and prayers. And every night, just before I tell him how much I love him, I ask this question: "How many clicks?"

You see, he has this awesome moon given to him by his uncle. It has craters and shadows and lights up from a little remote control. The number of times you click the button determines what phase the moon is in. To me, this is the coolest night light ever. It fades after a half hour down to darkness but he gets to fall asleep to this beautiful light and be reminded of the bigness of the universe.. And I don't know how it started, but my husband and I are the ones who light it. He picks the phase, we press the buttons, follow it by an "I love you so much, I'll see you in the morning!" and then leave the moon-lit room, the child snug in his warm bed, the scent of his hair lingering in our memory, the sense of another day come and gone, full of memories and mistakes and successes and us.

There is no way he would let us forget to do it, either. It's just a part of who we are right now and like all the other little traditions that have come and gone, this one will likely fade at some point, too. He'll get too old for it or it will break or he'll want to pass it on to his little brother. Something will change. But for at least a year of his life and counting, that moon will have been as crucial a part of bedtime as the words we share with each other. We'll remember it when he's older. It'll be one of the things we talk about when we remember the sweet years when we still played a big role in bedtime. It'll always be something his uncle gave him that was really meaningful for a time.

I love that. And as much as I've always loved the big traditions- lighting all the candles on Christmas Eve, eating dinner at my grandparents pool when we visit in Florida and all the other things we do that fit into that category, I think I'm growing to love these small moments more. It's almost impossible to pinpoint how they start and why they become necessary, but they are all the sweeter for it. They are what I really want to remember some day. When the kids are dropped off at college or walk down the aisle or get those first real jobs, it'll be all the little things that we did, all the small moments and the ways we learned to celebrate them, that truly make our family what it is. It'll be those tiny traditions that came and went that we'll laugh about and remember and maybe even see replayed in their own families some day.

Yes, the days can be long and the years can feel short, but I'm learning to take it one day at a time, not rushing the littlest one in growing up and not holding back the oldest one, and just letting life happen.

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