It's pretty much the same every night. I put on Evan's pjs and we settle down in the glider to nurse. Sometimes I sing and sometimes I rock and sometimes I just sit quietly and enjoy the few minutes of peace after a hectic day. Evan usually plays with my hair, sometimes runs his hands along the contours of my face, occasionally pats me as if to say "thanks" while he drinks. When he's done, he sits up and applauds his approval and then flashes me a huge "I know what's coming now" grin as he lunges for the copy of Goodnight Moon on his bookshelf. We read the book together, Evan turning pages and pointing out the red balloon on every page as I recite the words I've long since committed to memory. Then I turn the light out and his noise machine on and we sit down in the glider again. I sing Taps, he puts his fingers into his mouth and melds his body to mine and we both relax into each other for a moment. I put him into his crib and he rolls over, finds his fingers again and smiles at me as I walk out of the room, singing the last notes of the song as I go. The whole routine takes maybe 10 minutes, start to finish. It is the best part of my day.
I know the time will come when he'll learn the art of the stall, when the requests for "just one more story" and the calls for a drink of water will turn bedtime into a production rather than a joy. I already can't recall when I stopped rocking Julia, when she started picking her own bedtime books, when it became clear that she was running the show more than I was. But for now, the routine is simple, sweet and unchanging and that's the way Evan and I both like it. Every night as I tell him about the three little bears sitting on chairs (and the two little kittens and the pair of mittens...), I find myself wondering how we've gotten there again so fast, how the day, which seemed so interminably long while we were in the midst of it, slipped away from me so quickly. No matter how distracted or busy I've been all day, no matter how many times my quality time with Evan has been derailed by a request from Julia, a phone call from a friend or my own inability to concentrate on anything for more than 3 minutes, I am 100% focused on Evan at bedtime. I had plenty of that focused time with Julia at this age, but precious little with Evan. Often, I find myself wishing that I could stall the routine myself, that I could slow down time and keep my baby safe and warm in my arms for just a little while longer.
Over the past 10 1/2 months, we've fine tuned the bedtime routine nearly to perfection, Evan and I. It's almost like the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray's character lived the same day over and over again, trying to get it right. But unlike that character, I don't want to perfect the moment and move on. I want it to last forever, exactly as it is right now. And if I can't do that, I at least want to capture it here and make sure that I'll never forget it.