The Ruark Kids

Saying Goodnight

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Siena tonight turned the tables on me.

For the past year, maybe longer, up until very recently, Siena has been asking that both parents say goodnight to her. Typically, one of us gives her a bath, and the other then reads books to her, tucks her into bed, and says goodnight. She then asks that second parent to go get the first to say goodnight to her. More often than not, in the past year, Siena has been having Mama read the books and put her into bed, so I’ve been called up as second goodnight shift.

Two years ago, when I said goodnight to Siena I’d usually “snuggle” with her, which means I would climb into bed with her and lie down next to her for a couple of minutes. (Often, when Mama would do this, she’d nearly fall asleep herself!) Eventually, about a year ago, this morphed into “sitting” with Siena, which meant either I sat on the bed or I sat on the floor next to the bed. Siena had gone from asking, “Will you snuggle with me” to “Will you sit with me?” when I walked into her room.

As she approached turning four, we started preparing Siena to have only one parent say goodnight, so that she’d no longer ask for the other after getting into bed. The night before she turned four, when I walked into her room after she asked me to come and say goodnight, I said, “Now remember Siena, you won’t be having us both say goodnight once you turn four tomorrow, right?” and she replied, “Tomorrow you’ll put me to bed, and the night after Mama will put me to bed.” Then the next night on her fourth birthday, she had Mama put her to bed and asked for me to come in after that. I went in and reminded her what we talked about, and that I was only coming in to say goodnight, not to sit with her. To “snuggling” and “sitting” this added the new option of “saying goodnight.” Our conversation typically have gone like this:

Siena: Daddy, will you sit with me?

Daddy: Siena, I’m going to only say goodnight.

Siena: Sit with me for one minute.

Daddy: I’ll sit with you for 30 seconds, ok?

Siena: Ok.

Some nights when I say I’m only going to say goodnight, she says “Ok, just say goodnight.”

A month later, now some nights she asks for me to go in, and some she doesn’t. And some nights she understands that I’m only coming in to say goodnight, though some she still asks me to sit with her.

Tonight, however, was a little different. Today we had our annual pumpkin party, and Siena and Thalia both had a fantastic day. Siena confided to us tonight that she thought it was “the most perfect day I’ve ever had in my life.” (She’s hyperbolic, that one.) Siena was also very tired, having done a tremendous number of things today from painting her pumpkin just after breakfast to running outside with me and some friends this afternoon to helping Mama gut her pumpkin to playing energetically with friend Emma before dinner. Dinner ran late, and it was a quarter to nine before Siena finally got down for bed. I went and picked up dinner with Thalia and then put her to bath and bed afterward, while Mama gave Siena bath and put her to bed. Even though Siena didn’t ask for me to come in and say goodnight, I felt like I hadn’t seen her all evening since she didn’t even come and say goodnight to me before reading her books as she often does.

So I walked into her room, and here is how the backwards conversation went:

Siena: “I didn’t want you to come in tonight.”

Daddy: “Siena, I wanted to come and sit with you since I didn’t see you all evening.”

Siena: “Only say goodnight.”

Daddy: “Can I sit with you for one minute?”

Siena: “Ok, but only for one minute because I’m really super tired.”

Is she learning the degree of power she wields over me? Too soon!

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