Bedtime for Josh involves a series of small but significant tasks we do every night in the same way and in the same order. When Josh was about six months old and I realized I was spending more than an hour trying to get him to sleep at night, I quickly adopted a bedtime routine to try to make the process much more efficient (and hopefully more fruitful). And being the kind of kid who always likes to know what to expect, Josh has really benefitted from the predictability of the routine.
Most of our bedtime routine is the usual stuff: going potty, brushing teeth, feeding his fish, reading a story, and hugging and kissing goodnight. But one of our traditions is perhaps a little unusual. After story time as Josh is getting comfortable in bed and I am tucking him in, I lean over him and let my hair tickle his face at various speeds. I usually start with “fast,” where I shake my head back and forth as quickly as I can without throwing up. Then I downshift to medium and eventually land on slow, which calms Josh and helps him get ready to sleep.
The other night as I was swishing my hair across his face, he asked me to tell him about how he has always loved my hair, which is one of his favorite stories.
One Sunday afternoon when Josh was about three weeks old, I was holding him in the rocking chair my mother rocked me in when I was a baby. The previous day had been rough. Josh had screamed at the top of his lungs almost the entire day. When he would finally fall asleep, he would wake up 20 minutes later screaming, and he would scream for a couple of hours until he would gulp down some milk and fall asleep for another 20 minutes, only to start the whole cycle again. I was convinced that he was colicky, and I was ruing the fact that this most surely meant I would have to repeat this process every day from now until he was at least three or four months old. I had friends with colicky babies, and I knew enough to know I didn’t want one.
So on this particular Sunday afternoon, I holding Josh as he slept, and bracing for the inevitable wailing that would begin as soon as he awoke. As I alternated between watching TV and watching my son sleep, I looked down at one point to see that was Josh awake — and he was smiling. I was puzzled. Not only had I expected him to wake up unhappy, but I had also expected him to be a couple months old before he started truly smiling. Perhaps it was one of those infamous gas smiles. When it faded, I waited for the cries. But they didn’t come. For some reason I turned my head away and then back to Josh, and again he was smiling. This was indeed a full face smile, not a momentary reflexive lip smile. I couldn’t help but smile back at him. As I tilted my head and talked to him, I noticed that my hair was gently brushing across his face. And the more it did, the more he smiled.
As I told Josh this story again the other night, he smiled the same smile and laughed at his own uniqueness. We both marveled at his consistency for a quiet moment before I gave him goodnight hugs. On my way out the door, I stopped to turn on his nightlight, and I heard him say to himself, “I wonder if Sami would do ‘hair’ with my kids.” Sami is Josh’s best buddy. A blonde beauty he has known and loved since they were two.
“I bet she would,” I said quietly as I stood in his doorway.
“Yeah, me too,” he decided as he rolled onto his tummy and disappeared under his sheets.
And so it goes.
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