I don’t know quite when it began, but my oldest daughter and I hardly ever say good night to each other anymore. If we do, it’s because every now and then I knock on her door on my way to bed to get what turns out to be an air kiss, hardly a touch.
When she was just a baby (and the first child of rather baby-ignorant people), getting her to sleep became my Holy Grail. She was a light sleeper. I was so sleep-deprived and exhausted that getting her to conk out for a little while was a major goal, but keeping her from waking was more like a scene from Raiders of The Lost Ark. If she fell asleep nursing, I would slowly, carefully, lay her in her crib, inching my hands out from under her and gently covering her. Then began the ordeal, for I couldn’t just walk out. The floors were wood, and there were boards that creaked. If I stepped on one she would wake up, so I left the room Indiana Jones-style, one step at a time, on a pre-discovered path that mostly avoided the squeakers and had to be negotiated lightly, putting the weight of one foot down slowly before lifting the back foot. It must have looked comical, but I assure you: at the time it was dead serious business.
When she was a preschooler she slept much better. Then night times became rituals of story-telling and a particular rhyme, in a call and answer style. The favorite lullabies would turn on, hugs and kisses would be shared, and the “Sleep Tight” poem had to be exchanged. Then she could sleep.
In elementary school she was quite active, occasionally getting splinters on her trek through her day. She hated having us try to remove them, so we would wait until she fell asleep and go in and pluck them out. It worked, so she must have slept very well then.
In high school she joined the ranks of teens everywhere and slept past noon, if allowed. Staying up too late and sleeping the morning away would be the preferred schedule, but a little thing called “school” continues to get in the way. Now, more often than not, I go to bed before my teens do. I leave them still doing homework, because at this point I don’t operate as well on just a little sleep as I did for all those years.
I still get hugs and kisses from my middle girl. In fact, she demands them often and to the point of irritation sometimes. I don’t think I’ll complain anymore, though, because it occurs to me that goodnight kisses from my first girl slipped away, and I didn’t even notice it.
Maybe now she’s the one quietly traversing the quest-like path so I won’t wake up to the fact that she is moving on.