Blame

There are some things that my children do that bother me more than others, like when my daughter doesn’t put away the clothes I’ve painstakingly folded, or when my son brings each and every toy he owns into my bedroom but is then “too tired” to clean them up afterward. As annoying as these things are, they are still somehow bearable. Then there are those things that I have a hard time tolerating, like when my kids choose to blame anyone—but themselves—for things that have gone wrong. They even like to assign blame when none is needed, and more often than not, I am the focus of this negative attention.

A perfect example of this would be when my daughter is running late for school because she can’t find clean socks to wear, she blames me for not washing them. Is it really my job to go through her disastrous room in order to find her dirty socks? Or, when I ask my son to get dressed and he yells at me that I didn’t give him his clothes yet. I mean, he’s seven, isn’t he capable of picking out his own clothes? It seems that the list of things I get blamed for is endless.

Of course, as a mother, I already place this blame on myself—I just call it “guilt.” I believe that it’s a parent’s curse to feel guilty about everything, even when we shouldn’t. So, as I sit here and feel guilty about ignoring my blog once again, I’ve decided to take a page from my children’s playbook and cast blame on everyone and everything that has prevented me from publishing a single word.

  1. My Childrens Rooms In order to write, I need the space around me to be neat, not perfect, but free of excess clutter. Although I don’t actually write in either of their rooms, every time I walk past them, I feel overwhelmed by the incredible mess I see.  That being said, I don’t actually feel compelled to clean them, but I do include them on my mental list of all the things I need to do before I can sit down to write.
  2. Work I’ve worked for the same company for the last twelve years, and although I am lucky enough to work from home, I still have a job that owns my time for 8 hours each day. If only I didn’t have to worry about feeding and clothing my children, putting gas in my car, or paying any bills, I would have plenty of time to write.
  3. Spring Break Because I’ve had a lot going on with work recently, we decided to not to do anything special for spring break this year. When it finally arrived, I felt tremendously guilty about my decision. To alleviate this guilt, I overcompensated. From the moment I finished work each day, I was at the mercy of my children’s whims—from taking my daughter shopping at the mall, to hunting down a new Skylander for my son at Toys R Us—all in the hopes of making their break a little more memorable. Each night, when all of the running around was finally done, I was too exhausted to even turn on the computer.
  4. Alcohol With all of the endless running around, who could blame me for needing a glass of wine—or two—at the end of a long day. And, although wine may be good for creativity when tweeting, I don’t find it incredibly motivating when trying to write.
  5. The Internet Why is it that on the nights when I actually had the energy to turn on the computer, there was always something interesting to distract me: posts from fellow bloggers, Google alerts in my inbox, emails from friends, status updates on Facebook? It was as if the Internet was mocking my desire to capture my advice for my daughter, by tempting me with this or that—and I gave in each and every time.
  6. Shades of Grey Trilogy Five days of my life were lost within the pages of these books—that’s all I’m going to say about that.
  7. Photobooks by MyPublisher Once every six months or so, MyPublisher sends out a coupon code for a photobook with unlimited pages for only $35 dollars. Unfortunately, they only give you about a day and a half to create and submit it—so as soon as the email arrived, I had to get started. In the end, my “2011″ photobook was 70 pages in length, and without the coupon it would have cost me $90.00. Who can blame me for thinking about nothing else during that time other than editing, cropping, and sorting images in order to take advantage of such an incredible offer?
  8. DragonVale I hesitate to include this on my list, as I don’t want anyone out there to be tempted to actually play this game—it is a huge time suck. At first, it was something for my son and I to do together—breed some dragons, collect some coins, compete in the colliseum—but then it turned into something more. Suddenly, every time I went to use the iPad for writing, I found myself checking on the dragons. I completely blame the creators of this game for preventing me from writing—wouldn’t you?
  9. Roku I cancelled cable recently in the hopes of saving some money and to attempt to watch less TV. I then purchased a device called “Roku” so that we could still watch TV via the Internet. What I didn’t know was that by subscribing to Netflix and HuluPlus, I was just opening myself up to a world of TV that I hadn’t known was out there—which leads me to #10.
  10. Friday Night Lights This is not a show that I was remotely interested in when it was on TV, as it focuses on three things I can’t exactly relate to—High School, Football, and Texas. For some unknown reason, when I saw the complete series on Netflix, I decided to give it a try. By the end of the first episode, I was completely hooked. Now, a few weeks and 70 episodes later, I am dreading the day—probably in the very near future—that the series will come to an end. Although this was probably the one thing that I blame the most for my not writing, I still think it was so worth it.

Well, there you have it, all the things that have prevented me from writing these last three weeks. And, although I still don’t like it when my kids blame me for things that I don’t deserve—nor would I advise them to cast blame in the future—I do feel better.

Fighting With My Inner-Self

I am an “all-or-nothing” person. I admit it. There is little in my life that is truly done in moderation. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may have already realized this, and may have even noticed that I have been in a “nothing” phase for the last couple of months.

I don’t really know why I am like this. It would be so much easier if I could just blame it on being a Gemini—you know, the whole dual personality thing. I mean, most of the time, it is like I am made up of two entirely separate people, each one vying for control of my everyday life.

The one half of me—the one that usually shows up around 6 AM and lasts until about 5:00—is my Type A Persona. Let’s call her “Elizabeth” (I’d use Erin but I find it impossible to talk about myself in the 3rd person, so I’ll use my seldom-used middle name). Elizabeth loves structure and organization, and wouldn’t be able to survive without an up-to-date calendar. I admire Elizabeth. She is the one who keeps me employed, who prevents my children from being late for school, and who keeps the whole family in clean underwear. Elizabeth likes to have a plan, each moment of the day scheduled down to the very last minute. For Elizabeth, multi-tasking is essential, and each task is performed with the utmost efficiency. In Elizabeth’s mind, there is no greater waste of time than staring at a grocery store shelf trying to decide which brand of olives to buy.

I have found that Elizabeth sticks around until just after work, her departure usually coinciding with the arrival of my children. When confronted with an endless barrage of questions, from “Where is all of my dance stuff?” to “Do we really have to have that for dinner?” the strong convictions of this thoughtful, organized part of me slowly begins to ebb, and my other half steps in.

Meet Lizzy. [Yes, short for Elizabeth, it’s not easy naming one’s inner selves.] It wouldn’t be fair to simply describe Lizzy as lazy or a procrastinator, although it wouldn’t be far off. I, however, prefer to think of her as spontaneous, maybe even a little fun-loving. Her answer to the question “What’s for dinner?” would either be “Feed yourselves!” or “Let’s run to Boston Market.” Lizzy seems to look for any excuse to throw the schedule out the window. Even the writing of this blog is a victim of Lizzy’s whimsy. For example, this post was started during a scheduled time with a scheduled deadline, but instead of finishing it, as soon as it was Lizzy’s turn to describe her laid-back tendencies, she decided it would be more fun to walk around the track during my son’s football practice.

One of the hardest parts about having two distinct—and entirely different—parts of myself is, not knowing which one is going to have the greater influence over my children. My assumption has always been that Elizabeth is the one they should to aspire to be like. It’s hard to disagree with the fact that my children will have a greater chance of being successful if they live organized and structured lives, and that procrastination could be their greatest downfall. As much as I see the virtue in enjoying life, I can’t help but think that it might be best if pleasure only occurred after your “to-do” list was at least partially complete.

When I look at my daughter, I worry that Lizzy may ultimately win-out, as I can see the evidence of her stronghold on my daughter’s daily life. At the age of twelve, she is already quite the procrastinator. This may not seem all that problematic for someone whose homework only takes fifteen minutes to complete. However, I can’t help but fast-forward a few years when she will suddenly have to juggle writing essays, studying for tests, and completing hours of homework each week, all while trying to still have a social life. I want to teach her to plan ahead, and budget her time so that she doesn’t feel overwhelmed by all that she has to accomplish.

I guess if I were being honest, I would have to say that I don’t want my daughter to be high-strung or neurotic about every detail of her life—like Elizabeth on a bad day. I want her to have aspects of Lizzy—her spontaneity and relaxed nature—and to enjoy life without worrying that she has forgotten to cross an item off her to-do list.

I think that one of the hardest parts of being a parent is seeing yourself reflected in your child’s actions, especially those that we are less-then-proud-of. When I see my daughter delay doing something—like studying for a test until the night before—I can see myself doing the same thing. More times than I care to admit, I have found myself throwing clothes into a suitcase minutes before having to leave the house, watching television instead of writing in my blog, or chatting on the phone rather than reading the book collecting dust on the table.

I guess the answer to all of this is balance. Finding the balance that will show both of my children that they can find as much pleasure in accomplishing important tasks as they can in enjoying a lazy day in bed. My advice for my daughter is to try to find the balance that works for her, and hopefully when she is older she won’t find that she also has two inner-personalities duking it out for control of her everyday life.

An Olympic Dream Unwatched

When I read this week’s Writing prompt, “Share your favorite Summer Olympic Moment so far,” I was struck by a myriad of different emotions: frustration, sadness, regret, annoyance, even anger. These were not the feelings I experienced while actually watching the games, however, but were instead caused by the fact that I couldn’t watch them.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this that the last few years have been “tight.” On more than one occasion, my husband and I have attempted to cut back, including reducing our cell phone minutes, cutting back on the extras at the grocery store, and limiting spending money on takeout to just the most special of occasions. We then turned our focus to the cable company. We were no longer receiving the discounted price for the “Triple Play” (cable, phone, and Internet), and our bill had somehow grown to around $250 per month. When I started to look into how to reduce this amount, I was confronted by the fact that even by eliminating the extras like HBO and other on-demand features, the most I would be able to bring it down to would be $180 per month. As I started to think of the other ways that we could access programs we regularly watch, I came across a device called Roku. For around $50, I would be able to buy a device that would stream television shows and movies into our home via a subscription to HuluPlus and Netflix at a cost of about $7 a month for each.

When I first broached the subject with my husband, there were a lot of questions about the cost of buying the devices—we would need four, one for each TV—along with questions about which programs we would and wouldn’t be able to watch. I won’t lie, giving up Game of Thrones mid-season, along with all future episodes of Dexter, True Blood, and everything on CBS, was not an easy thing to do. . . but we decided to do it. The kids tried to protest—there was an endless stream of complaints about “all the shows they couldn’t watch,” and my daughter stopped talking to me when the subject of “what to watch” came up, limiting conversation to annoyed grunts.

I’ll fess up, it wasn’t easy for me either. At first, the hardest adjustment came with my morning cup of coffee. I was used to starting my day off in front of Today, and without cable, this was no longer possible. Thanks to an NBC channel through Roku, however, I was able to watch the previous day’s program, which really wasn’t so bad—except for being terribly behind on all current news.

The only thing that would fill me with dread regarding watching TV was when my children would suddenly remember that the Olympics were coming this summer, asking—

“We’ll be able to watch the Olympics, right?”

I didn’t actually have the answer to that question, and would answer “Sure,” with a slight hesitation in my voice. That is, until I saw an ad for a free NBC Olympics app that I could download to our iPad—I was saved from all future complaints about depriving my children of something they really wanted. There’s just something about the Olympics—especially as a parent who wants their children to witness determined people achieving their goals—it is magical.

When I finally attempted to download the app, my excitement over the NBC App quickly turned to disappointment when I saw that I needed a log-in from my cable company in order to view the games. Although I was still paying them for my Internet and phone, I was not actually a cable TV customer and therefore couldn’t log in. I was frustrated, but I didn’t get all out pissed off until I tried using my cousin’s Cablevision log-in. I immediately realized that based on my IP address, the NBC App/Cablevision knew that I wasn’t a customer and refused to let me log in.

You may be thinking that there must be another way for me to watch the games—and there are—but I don’t think I should have to do anything more than I am.

  • I could answer one of the hundreds of calls I have received from Cablevision since canceling—I would probably even get a better deal . . . well, for at least a year.
  • I could spend every waking moment—when not at work—at my cousin’s or sister’s homes watching the Olympics live.
  • I could force my family to DVR all of the sports we love, and then invite ourselves over all the time to catch up.
  • I could buy a converter for my TV so that I can watch NBC for free (are those boxes even still available?)

Ever since downloading that NBC Olympics app, I have been completely flabbergasted at NBC. It is not a requirement that you are a cable-subscriber to watch the channel, so why should I have to have cable? I was also under the impression that NBC wanted as many people as possible to actually watch the games and their network—which is why they created the “free” app in the first place.

I’d like to ask NBC their opinion about families, like mine, who would like their children to be inspired by these incredible Olympic athletes, and yet find it difficult to pay the cable bill. This post won’t end with advice for my daughter as it usually does—although I’m tempted to tell her to always stand up for something she believes in—but instead will end with advice for NBC: If you create something that is free in the spirit that anyone might use it, you should make sure that it is, in fact, free.

Top Ten List: Things that Turn Me Into a Raving Lunatic

I work from home. This means that I am actually inside my house the majority—if not all—of the day. Every day. Therefore, the list of things that drive me crazy has been steadily growing. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m becoming less patient, or maybe I just need to get out more. Either way, the members of my (poor?) family are both the perpetrators of some of these acts and the recipients of my all-out insanity when they occur. This is my list of the top 10 things that make me nuts from (1) being those things that I find difficult to ignore to (10) those things that when I see them they turn me into a raving lunatic.

  1. Black flies I can live with most insects, like small spiders, ants, and even caterpillars. The one insect, however, that I cannot tolerate in my home is the black fly. I don’t mean gnats or little flies, I’m talking about the large, black ones, the ones you always see buzzing around dead bodies on crime shows. Since these flies remind me of death, I will stop at nothing until I squash it.
  2. Being asked to  get something after just sitting down This is part of being a mom. I get it, and I promise, I don’t swear at my children when this happens. I do, however, usually let out a loud sigh of frustration on hearing things like, “Mom, can you pour me some milk?” or “Mom, can you help me find my glasses?”  Why can’t they think to ask me while I am still standing up?
  3. Not loading the dishwasher I’m sure that I’m not the only one out there who gets angry at the site of a sink full of dishes. My issue isn’t so much with having to load the dishwasher, especially when it’s already full of clean, yet-to-be-put-away dishes. What makes me see red is when I’ve already completed the dreaded tasks of unloading and reloading, and although there is clearly room in the dishwasher for another plate or knife and fork, I still find them left in the sink the following morning, just waiting for me to find them a spot.
  4. Cable Company Ever since canceling cable a few months ago, I get daily calls from a subsidiary company trying to get me to come back. I have yet to actually speak to the person on the other end of the phone because, let’s face it, those people are really persuasive—it was hard enough canceling the first time!
  5. Living Room remote found on my daughter’s floor.

    Lost remotes As I mentioned in a previous post, we no longer have cable, but instead use Roku devices on all of our televisions. This means that there are four remotes in our house, and each of them can be used on any one of the TVs. The problem is, these remotes are a bit small, and easily fall in between couch cushions or get hidden under magazines on the coffee table. When this happens, rather than anyone actually looking for the remote, they go to the nearest room and take another one. Of course, when I am finally able to sit down and relax, the remote isn’t anywhere to be found.

  6. Lost [fill in the blank] Okay, whenever anything is lost, I freak out a little. It’s not that I get angry, or start swearing—unless it is my car keys or cell phone as I am walking out the door—but I become completely obsessed with locating the missing item that I can think of little else. Sometimes this “searching” can go on for days, or at least until I have either lost my mind and given up or I have finally found the missing object.
  7. Bad Grammar I’ll admit it, I watch too much TV, especially reality TV. Although shows like Storage Wars and Cash in the Attic are relatively harmless, many of them are the equivalent of watching a train wreck—and I just can’t look away. The one thing that makes me cringe violently is when someone on the show can’t speak properly. It might be the Editor in me, but when I hear someone say “You did good,” (all the moms on Dance Moms) or “These are the ingredients-es,” (Theresa on Real Housewives of New Jersey) I find myself yelling obscenities at the television.
  8. Can’t wrap up the last muffin?

    Bread/food left out in the open Fortunately for everyone in my household, this does not happen very often, because when it does, I become a ranting lunatic. I don’t know what it is about finding a new loaf of bread already turned stale because someone forgot to tie the bag back up, or when a fresh bag of chips are just a little soft the day after opening them and leaving them out on the coffee table all night, it just pisses me off. Is it the $3.00 just wasted? Or the fact that I will need to go to the store a day or two sooner? Either way, I hope after reading this, it doesn’t happen again.

  9. Interrupting me while on the phone What is it about kids that they can be completely well-behaved when you are busy doing laundry or washing dishes, but the moment you sit down to have a conversation with your sister or a friend, they begin to fight, to scream, to ask annoying questions? You are then left either pretending that they aren’t there, glaring at them while shaking your finger in a menacing way, OR continuously putting the other person on hold to scream at them. Aaaggghhhh! Why do they do that?!
  10. Making a mess—even a small one—after the cleaning women has left I am not an indulgent person. I work hard. I don’t complain (too much) about having to work full-time while still taking care of the kids and the house with little help from anyone else. I honestly don’t mind it. The one extravagance—if you can call it that—is that I have a woman come to the house every other week to clean. It’s fabulous, especially when I get to walk through a clean house for a few hours before the kids come home. But, God forbid, the moment I see something left on the floor, or even just left a little askew, I fly into a rage (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but it is how I feel). I ask my children over and over again, “I just paid to have this cleaned, can’t I enjoy it for just a couple of days?” It never works.

So, this is my list, what’s on yours?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Relax (Advice from a Wise Seven-Year Old)

The other night, my seven-year-old son looked up at me and said,

“Mom, you should really relax.”

What? Me—not relaxed? I mean, how could I not be relaxed, we were sitting on the couch watching a movie, as I aimlessly surfed the Internet, reading status updates and deleting an endless stream of unread emails. I’ll admit, his question caught me off-guard. There were so many other things that might have come out of his mouth at that moment:

Mom, you should really pay attention to the movie. 

OR

Mom, you should really make me some dinner.

OR

 Mom, you should really stop staring blankly at the computer.

But telling me “to relax” was not at all what I had expected. As I thought about it, however, I realized that he was right­—I wasn’t relaxed. I was tense. In fact, I’ve been tense for months. Even when I think that I am relaxed, I can’t seem to lose the knot that is perpetually gnawing at my insides. When I try to identify the cause in an attempt to make it go away, I am flooded with images of my job, my husband, my kids, even my blog—all of which in some way contributes to this feeling of unrest.

A side-effect of this ever-present anxiety is that I sometimes forget to smile. It’s not that I’m frowning, or even unhappy. I’m not even thinking about one thing in particular. Instead, I find myself lost in my own head, thinking of nothing and everything all at the same time. When this happens, I don’t know which thought to grab hold of, which thought to analyze in order to finally put it to rest. So, instead, I am left unable to focus on a movie, to write in this blog, or to be as connected to the world around me as I need to be.

With my son’s simple statement, I realized that it was time to confront the one thought that pains me the most, the one that runs through my head over and over again like a negative mantra—my daughter is growing up. I know, not a surprise as I have said this too many times to count—so what the hell is my problem? The answer is, I honestly don’t know.

Looking back, I think it all started when she graduated from elementary school a month ago. Watching her standing on the stage, I had the terrible realization that she is closer to the end of her childhood than she is to the beginning of it. She is physically changing before my eyes, and I am in awe each time I see this tall, beautiful creature walk into the room. At the same time, I am overcome by emotion when she shows me the little girl that she still has inside of her.

Even as I write this, I now see that it is this in-between stage that is causing me so much pain and anxiety. If she were already a teenager, I believe I could deal with—or at least try to deal with—all of the things that come with it. And if she were still a child, I would find comfort in knowing that I am the one person in her life that has all the answers. Instead, I am somewhere in the middle, just waiting for it all to change. And although the waiting is unbearable, I still dread the day when the only time I see the little girl that she once was is in photos from her childhood.

So, I guess that’s the answer—I’ve never been good with waiting, and I am especially bad at waiting for the “unknown.” However, now that I know that this is the crux of my problem, I am beginning to feel the knot lessening, and I may even feel a small smile playing at the corners of my mouth.

I wish I could adequately express how thankful I am to my son for giving me his simple words of advice—you should relax­. Starting today, I will do just that. I will stop living in my own head, and I will begin to look forward to getting to know the young woman my daughter will soon become.

The Chase: A Tale of a Public Timeout

Like many writers, I sometimes need a little inspiration before sitting down to write a post. Every Monday, I look forward to receiving an email with just that—inspiration in the form of writing prompts from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop (you should read her latest post—it made me burst out laughing). Needless to say, this week* it worked—I’m inspired. So, today I’m going to tell you an embarrassing story.

This story takes place in the late fall, about four years ago, when my son was three. My daughter was in desperate need of a winter coat, but because she was fixated on getting a Northface jacket—something I refused to buy for her—she rejected every coat I picked out. So, in an act of desperation on a particularly cold evening after work—with both kids tired and hungry—I took them to Burlington Coat Factory. As we headed toward the children’s section, I told my son that if he sat nicely in the cart while I found a coat for his sister, I would get him something. Like most words of bribery, the incentive to remain “good” lasted approximately five minutes. I ended up warning him a few more times that I would not be getting him the “Thomas the Tank Engine” book that he had just grabbed off of a nearby shelf if he didn’t behave, but it was to no avail—he refused to do anything other than whine and struggle to get out of the shopping cart.

I soon found myself running between two children: my daughter who was sulkily trying on one winter coat after another, and my son who was crying, desperate to be set free. Within minutes, my patience was completely shot, and all of my kind negotiations were over. Fortunately, it was at that moment that my daughter grudgingly settled on a coat, and we were finally able to head to the checkout.

Once there, I took the Thomas book from my son’s hands and handed it to the cashier saying, “we aren’t going to take this.” When my son saw her put the book behind the counter, he began screaming “Thomas!” at the top of his lungs. I tried to pay for the coat as quickly as I could so that we could get away from the shocked stares of the people around us.

As we approached the door, I took my still-screaming son out of the cart so that we could walk to the car. Within a second, he was running back through the store screaming “Thomas!” over and over again.

The chase was on.

Even though he was only three, he was fast—he was half-way through the store before I finally caught up to him. At this point, I was sweating, embarrassed, and completely out of my mind. I had two choices to make: 1) I could pick up my rather large, screaming son while simultaneously dodging his kicking and punching while running to the car; OR 2) I could put him in timeout. Even though there was a voice inside my head that was saying “You’re crazy,” I decided to go with option 2.

I had just started doing “timeouts” with him, and I think he had the general concept down—sit quietly in one spot for three minutes (he was three), if he gets up, the time will start over again. However, I had never actually attempted to perform one with him in public. I somehow got him to sit somewhere in the middle of the Women’s section, I set the timer on my iPhone, showed it to him so he could see that he had three minutes, then pressed “start.” He sat there for about 5 seconds before he pulled himself up off the floor in an attempt to bolt away from me. I restarted the timer, and the next time he sat for about ten seconds before once again trying to flee. This went on at least eight more times, each one tearing down my resolve just a little more than the last. Every time I glanced up, I would see yet another person staring at me and the commotion that my son was causing. I was mortified.

But I didn’t give up.

On the 10th or 12th try—I’m not sure since I lost count—he finally sat still. He cried silently, but he didn’t get up for the entire time, and finally the alarm went off signaling the end of this embarrassing ordeal. I then helped him up off the floor so that we could finally leave. As I hurried both of my children toward the exit, my son let out one more feeble cry for “Thomas” as the door finally closed behind us.

This may have been one of the most embarrassing situations I found myself in as a parent, but it also ended up being an incredibly successful one. By following through with that timeout, my son learned that I was serious about the importance of listening to me—for the next few months, he was incredibly well-behaved when we were in public. I also learned an important lesson. I shouldn’t care about what others think of me when I know that I am doing the right thing as a parent.

*This prompt was actually from last week’s Writer’s Workshop—it takes me FOREVER to finish a single post!

Holding On To Bedtime

My Daughter, Age 11

When I started this blog a year ago, I often found myself dwelling on the ways that my daughter was growing up. Although she had just turned eleven, I still believed that she was more child than teen. Then there were the moments when I would catch a glimpse of the teenager she was slowly turning into. These moments would force me to confront the heart-breaking fact that my baby was growing up faster than I was prepared for.

For the last year, I have attempted to prepare myself for the inevitable by forcing myself to become numb to the shock of seeing my daughter changing. To do this, I instead focused on the positives: watching Saturday Night Live with her on Saturday nights; enjoying many of the same shows, including Friday Night Lights; being able to leave her home with her brother for an hour while I am at the grocery store—all things I couldn’t do when she was younger. That’s why, when I do see a glimpse of my little girl appear from beneath this ever-changing creature, I feel an overwhelming need to grab hold of her—to hold onto that moment for just a little longer—never knowing if it will be the last time I see the little girl she used to be.

My Daughter, Age 12

More often than not, this appearance occurs in the evening, a little before bedtime. Although there is always plenty of room on the couch for both of us, my daughter inevitably ends up sitting right next to me. Before I realize it, she is leaning against me, her head resting on my shoulder—and if the computer isn’t on my lap—her hands encircling mine.

Unfortunately, not all nights are like this, and if I am in the middle of something—like writing this blog or just wasting time on the Internet—the closeness of her body makes me feel crowded. I will sometimes snap at her, telling her to give me some space. It isn’t until long after she is already in bed that I realize that I once again lost an opportunity to hold my daughter close. In my regret, I am left worrying that maybe the next night she will be the one telling me “to give her some space.”

The same is true at bedtime. We no longer have the rituals of her youth: reading a story (or two or three); lying down next to her until she falls asleep; or telling her stories from my childhood, each one ending with the words “one more.”

Today, the routine is much simpler. Lately, some nights, after she has gotten ready for bed and brushed her teeth, she comes back into the living room for a hug and a kiss goodnight—and nothing more. I’ll admit, I don’t mind that I don’t have to stop what I am doing—or that I don’t have to get up for the 283rd time that evening—just to tuck her in. Other nights, she will stand in the doorway, silently waiting for me to walk her to bed to tuck her in. Less often, she may even ask me to cuddle with her for “just a few minutes.”

The worst nights are those in which she heads off to bed without a word, not needing a hug or a kiss good night. It is on these nights that I usually find myself standing in her doorway, watching her as she sleeps, silently praying that tomorrow she would need me once again.

When I was a child and afraid of thunderstorms, I remember being told of a way to know whether the storm was getting closer or if it was going away. The trick is to count the seconds in between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder. If the number of seconds decreases in between each burst of lightning, the storm is getting closer. If, on the other hand, the seconds were to increase, the storm is moving further away.

I wish there were a similar correlation between bedtimes and growing up. If there were, I would be able to predict how much longer my daughter would be a child by the number of times per week she needed me at bedtime. As the number of times she barely says “good night” increases, I would know that the end is near. On the other hand, if the frequency of her needing to be tucked in suddenly increases, I’ll know that I can enjoy the child in her just a little longer.

Unfortunately, there is no way to actually predict just when unselfconscious silliness will be replaced by teen angst, or when constant questions will be replaced by indifference. I wish my advice for my daughter could be to stay my little girl for as long as possible, but I know that she would laugh—or roll her eyes—at the suggestion. Instead, I know that my advice should be for me—and it begins tonight when I’m done with this post. I will take advantage of each any every moment that my daughter wants to cuddle with me, chooses to sit right next to me, or asks me to tuck her in one more time.

My post will be hanging out with others here this week where you can check out some other great blogs.