If some of the other parents saw us right now they’d be appalled. Or perhaps just perplexed. Or maybe even wishing they could do the same but their schedules or weird-ass beliefs won’t allow them to do so. It’s 8:30 pm on a school night. My kid is not in bed. He’s outside in the dark riding his new bike in the rare Florida chill. His dad is home from another week-long stint in another state for work. They are outside together; I’m cleaning the kitchen with the calmness and solidarity that a man experiences in his man-cave or garage tinkering with motors or wood.
I find great pleasure in washing dishes and wiping the counter. I have my Pandora stations on shuffle. It’s my kitchen dance party. I know the dishwasher will be loaded per my exceedingly high expectations, meaning I can fit nearly every dish and utensil in there without having to hand wash much except the big salad bowl, special cutting knife, and roasting pan. I’m working/dancing off the calories consumed by finishing not only my plate but also my kid’s. I know this is not a good habit. But I hate seeing healthy home-cooked food go to waste. He’ll be hungry again in twenty minutes.
Sometimes when he rails against going to bed it reminds me of when he was just a year old. We have video of him playing with an empty water bottle and laughing at his older cousin as she fake sneezes in this high-pitched “Eh Cheeeewww”. I pan to the clock and it reads 1:00 am. The baby is wide awake and laughing as his fat cheeks dimple and his eyes widen with maniacal late-night wonder.
That video will forever be etched in my memory. When I hear other parents talk about how their kid goes down strictly at 8:30 I don’t offer much. I figure if they knew I let my kid stay up til sometimes 10:00 on a school night they would roll their eyes or widen them and give me the “Oh we don’t do that at our house” judgement crap.
My brother and I had a strict bedtime of 9:00. I can still hear my parents yelling from downstairs, “Ya’ll need to quiet down and go to sleep!” We were always whisper-chatting or playing with stuffed animals way past the nine o’clock hour. Even though we had our own rooms we slept in the same bed til I was thirteen. I was afraid of the dark. Utterly convinced there was something under the bed that would reach out and grab my feet if they were too close to the edge. And lightning? Utterly convinced it would crash through my window and strangle me with its electric arms.
My brother wasn’t scared. He just humored me. Until I kicked him out when it was too weird for us to be under the same quilt.
My kid doesn’t have a sibling to share in late-night laugh-fests. So we let him stay up and watch SNL skits or old episodes of The Twilight Zone. Interestingly he never has nightmares.
Maybe it’s bad parenting to let him stay up so late. But then again everyone has their own child-rearing style. I like that we’re flexible. You gotta grab these moments and drink them in, inhale them. One day soon that laughing baby, this night owl boy, will be up all night with his buds. And I’ll be biting the skin off my fingers hoping to God he’s okay. I think I’ll go ahead and order my Chardonnay drip right now.