“Ali, I have to go to my class now.”
“OK mama. Make sure you listen to your teacher.”
“And don’t let your friends be mean to you.”
These are some of typical instructions I am issued by my four-year preschooler as I head to my graduate school class every Saturday morning. They are precious moments, distinct from the rushed, tense mornings of the work week. There is no pressure to wake and get him ready for school (often accompanied by bouts of crying and/or screaming). I also get to wake up about 15 minutes later than usual (small mercies); get ready at an almost luxurious pace; and then kiss his rumpled head goodbye as he sleepily smiles and sends me off with sage advice, his dad sleeping beside him.
In the crazed life I lead these days, with full-time work, part-time graduate school, and parenting, I hang on to such moments to prevent going bonkers. Even if they last exactly two minutes at a time.
Bedtime is my favorite one of these moments. Each night, in the soft light of my tilted, bright red table lamp, Ali and I jump into bed with a storybook. Sometimes, I might be distracted and pick up the phone or laptop to just quickly send that one last email or text (“just one more minute I promise!”). Sometimes, he would force me to put the device away, but often, he would just patiently watch me, silently waiting for me to return to him. I do, and when the story is finished, we have our last conversation of the day. He recalls major events from school (Mikey wasn’t sharing his batman with me today); I ask him questions, and answer his. Then I ask him to say a prayer. He does, and pulls the blanket up to his neck. He kisses my cheek and says goodnight. He knows I will watch him sleep for a few minutes, but he doesn’t mind. He’s at that age where he takes my watching as granted. Within a few moments, he is fast asleep, carefree and oblivious of life’s stresses; a peaceful and perfect ending to my own chaotic day.