The mama inhales, mouth closed, nose buried in her little one’s wispy fine hair. The child is almost dry after her bath, a little angel sent to Earth and poorly disguised as a damp towel burrito. But we mamas? You can’t fool us. We know she’s straight from Heaven.
I swear by all that’s holy that Johnson & Johnson baby wash is a mama drug.
I smell that smell, and I am Found.
I find myself, in fact, sympathetic to cats who have no choice but to nuzzle each and every dime-bag of catnip that crosses their paths, alternately scenting and drooling upon them. I do the same thing to any baby who’s been carelessly doused in golden baby shampoo. It’s like butter on biscuits + snuggling down into memory foam + Josh Groban singing; baby shampoo lulls me into a happy stupor from which I require no deliverance.
And so I imagine all bedtime story-telling in idyllic households necessarily begins with baby shampoo.
Freshly washed littles. Flame-retardant, zip-up, footed jammies. Shiny, rosy cheeks. Bright eyes and occasional, sweet yawns. The kidlets all sit criss-cross on the floor by the fireplace giving their siblings plenty of space and even more grins, while mama settles into the Reading Chair, holds the story book (a story beloved and agreed-upon by all) in a way that everyone can see all of the pictures and no one is in anyone’s way, and begins reading.
When the storytime ends, the kids jump to their feet, form an orderly line, kiss mama on the cheek and thank her sweetly for the story. They call her Lovely Mama. Then they pitter patter their way to bed, where they jump under their covers and wait patiently for their turn at prayers.
This is how bedtimes happen at your house. I just know it.
This is not how bedtimes happen at my house.
At my house, we make things up. You know. Like bedtime stories. And rules about not tripping each other on the stairs on purpose anymore. And whether or not one must sleep in something more than just undies and one sock. And the length of time a child can go between baths before we’ll be forced to appear on a family episode of Intervention. That kind of thing.
So lately, bedtime stories have morphed from book reading and story telling to looking at pictures on my laptop. I know, I know. I’m supposed to be reading to them, but my preschoolers just went through a rather mind-numbing and enthusiastic Let’s Read the Encyclopedia phase (which is so completely Greg’s fault) so I’m gleefully on board the picture train.
“Go pick a story,” I say to Cai Cai, my 5-year-old who most often smells like string cheese and hot sand and not at all like baby shampoo.
“No story! Let’s look at pictures of us when we were babies!” Cai yells back to me. Cai only has one volume, and he never calls me Lovely Mama. In fact, he usually calls me DON’T KISS ME right before I tackle him from behind and tickle him ’til he relents.
We wade through a different folder of family photos every night.
A few days ago, we stumbled on some never-before-seen videos by Abby. She was eleven at the time. Cael was three. They put together this instructional video, which deserves to be seen, America. Because the only thing better than a Instructional Potty Training Video is an Instructional Potty Training Video by a three year old.
I think you’ll agree that this is sheer genius.
And perfect as a bedtime story.