“Go To Bed!”
In many households, including my own, those three words are generally delivered in an ominous and authoritative manner, the tone meant to convey thunderous consequences should obedience not follow immediately. Unfortunately, instead of the hoped for reaction (6 year old child hops up quickly from most recent activity saying, “Oh, yes Daddy, I shall brush my teeth right away and put myself to bed anon”), I am often met with a sudden inability on the part of an otherwise intelligent and perceptive child to hear what I am saying or to decipher the English language.
“Yaniv. GO TO BED!”
Nothing. Feigned deafness, the thinking goes, will allow him to eke out another few minutes of computer/TV/Lego/reading/coloring/trains/staring at the ceiling rather than going to bed. If you don’t believe me on this point, don’t move from the spot where you issued your last disregarded edict and whisper very softly, “want some ice cream?” and see how fast they’re standing in front of you with a bowl, a spoon, and a smile.
“You heard me.”
I grind my teeth and start again at the beginning: “Go and brush your teeth, it’s time for bed.”
Even though he knows resistance is futile, the game plays out. Like any good Freedom Fighter, he has all sorts of ways to delay the inevitable, but my reward at the end of the struggle is, of course, a snuggle and as many good night kisses as I want.
But Yaniv is no ordinary Freedom Fighter. One night when I finally got him into bed, I leaned in for my goodnight kisses. The first one landed on his forehead and, quick as a snake, his hand darted out from under the covers and wiped it off. The next one landed on his nose and the hand came out again. Every kiss I planted was summarily wiped away.
“What are you doing?” I asked stupidly.
“Wiping off your kisses”, he answered as if speaking to a moron.
I pasted a loud one on his cheek … gone. Another on his neck … gone. Where was the fun in this? Over the next few nights, our final “goodnights” turned into semi good-natured wrestling matches with me trying more and more desperately to get my due for the torture of the bedtime ritual, and he, realizing he had finally hit upon a response to the indignities of being put to bed that was both clearly upsetting to me and fully in his control, wiped away my efforts with more and more relish. He even expanded his practice to include any and all kissing inflicted upon his person by Karen or me at any time.
Finally, I decided to stop fighting him. I am, after all, 43 and he only 6 – not a fair fight – I was terribly over matched. So the next night in his room, seeing his little hand poised to wipe, I leaned in for a kiss and stopped short.
“Oh, I forgot. No kisses. Sorry. I won’t forget again. Here, let me hug you.”
I hugged him tight, turned around, and walked out of his room.
The next night, same thing. “Here’s your hug, and don’t worry, I got it, no kisses.” If he was at all perplexed or bothered by this, he hid it well. Our new routine, while somewhat less satisfying for me, seemed set.
Then one night, about two weeks later as I was leaving the room after my hug…
“You know, you could kiss me when I’m in bed and I won’t wipe it off.”
Cautiously, I turned around. “Really?”
“Yes,” he said very seriously, “when I’m in bed.”
“Ok. When you’re in bed. Like now?”
So I leaned in and kissed him softly on the cheek. It didn’t get wiped off. I turned around to leave the room.
“And in the morning when I’m still in bed.”
“What ‘in the morning’?”
“You could kiss me and I won’t wipe it off.”
“Oh. Great. In the morning.” I kissed him again (it stayed) and turned to leave.
“In the night in my bed and in the morning and at breakfast.”
“Breakfast too? Are you sure?”
“Yes. Breakfast too. But not after breakfast.”
“No, of course not. Never after breakfast. Wouldn’t dream of it.” I kissed him again. “Good night, sweetie.”
The next morning I found him at the breakfast table. “Are you still eating breakfast or are you finished?” I asked. He smiled and said, “Still eating.” I ran over and kissed the back of his neck 23 times and he just smiled and left them right where they landed.
Life was good. He had set his boundaries, they were being respected, and I was being allowed kisses that stayed. But would it last? The answer came two nights later. I kissed him good night and started to leave.
“You can kiss me again because I wiped it off by mistake.”