“All right kiddos, time to head upstairs.”
“And Daddy? I’ll brush my teeth?”
“And get my pa-JAM-as on?”
“And then I will go to bed!”
This night’s variation of the usual bedtime conversation plays out with my oldest, Ruthie, while my son begins gathering all the things he wants to bring with him upstairs to bed. He puts his toy laptop under his left arm, picks up his toy tool bag he has filled with blocks, hot wheels, a Ninja Turtle, and of course his complement of tools, (the necessities in other words), then squats down (with perfect form), and manages to wedge a big green ball between his free right arm and everything collected in his left.
Perfectly planned so he can still grab the balloon floating near the stairs.
I watch on with the small wonder that is exclusive to proud parents.
“Ready Daddy!” my son exclaims as he begins up the stairs.
“Daddy, I’m going to wake you up in the morning, okay?” asks Ruthie.
“And we’re going to eat breakfast!”
We reach the top of the stairs and my daughter runs to the bathroom, excited to brush her teeth; my son’s priority is setting up his spread of toys just right. While helping them get into their pajamas I ask them about their day. I already know every minute of it, but I encourage their contemplation.
“Uncle Ethan came to visit us. He loves video games, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, he does.”
“Well…” Ruthie’s brow furrows in thought, “I love Uncle Ethan!” she finishes with all of her five year old zeal.
Our bedtime ritual continues with more discussion. Often It seems she saves up her biggest questions of the day until she is tucked into bed. We discuss the meaning of life, the universe, and everything before we say our “Goodnight’s” and “I love you’s” and I am almost out of the room when Ruthie asks one more question.
“Daddy? You want to sleep with my Spider-Man? He will help keep you safe, like… Like how you keep us safe.”
This isn’t the first time she has offered me a protector for my dreams, but I am never less amazed by her kindness every time. It is unabashed and pure, and desires nothing in return.
Sometimes I am the student, and she is the teacher.