Can I have your hand


She asks me each night with an impish grin, “Mama, can I have your hand?” It’s part and parcel of bedtime, this game of gentle tug of war.

“Just let me hold your hand, but you’ll be too tired to pull, so you’ll sleep here.” Her eyes shine, big and bright and as perfect as they were inĀ those early weeks of hours spent gazing at her . She quivers with an implicit, “C’mon, mom.” I say ok.

Holding hands, I lean toward the door, she makes campy moves to fall out of bed, I swing toward the bed, back and forth we go until I stop.

“I’m too tired. I. Need. To. Sleep,” and I collapse (delicately) over her. I feign magnificent snoring and thrashing, she laughs with her whole body.

It’s perfect and yet some nights the ugly secret I try to keep secret rears its nasty head.

I don’t want to tug. It’s been a 14 hour day and I had set my sights on being done before 9.

I dont’ want a request beyond what I’ve said we’d do. I want someone to let good enough be good enough.

I don’t want to be held or cried for and I hate myself for it.

I make nice with people during the work day, I banish the futile worry about petty crap that I can’t control and I juggle the balls I create as well as those flung at me.

We do dinner and homework, playtime and reading. We talk about our day, but somehow at bedtime my elasticity fades. Brittle and jerky.

“Mama, can I have your hand?” she asks. “Sure, Fin, go ahead, take my hand.” I bend a knee ready to lurch spectacularly for the door before being pulled back. I sway, she pulls me back.

When I begin to sway again she says softly, “It’s ok mom, you can just go,” as her fingers slip from mine and she lets my hand go, she holds my gaze and then turns to her pillow.

The cat’s in the cradle…



I'm not kidding when I ask you to tell me what you think.

  1. Oh, oh, oh … reading this in tears. I know that guilt you cite, intimately, and the feeling of shutting a door – AT LAST! – only to feel, immediately, regret that I did not more fully immerse myself in bedtime, more thoroughly enjoy and live these moments that I know I’ll recall as some of the most sacred of my life.

    • It’s so scared, isn’t it? And the truth is she is 4, so it’s one of those gifts of perspective. Quit rushing, for pity’s sake. Because the truth is when I stay and cuddle, I am better for it. My night is better, everything is just better. Impossibly, excruciatingly imperfect, this journey.

  2. It’s a battle I have almost every single night — wanting to stay and linger and breathe it in. And wanting to run quickly away and get on with… well, most often with what can wait.

    • It really all can wait can’t it? We try and do everything so fast, so right, so perfect. But sometimes it just needs to be. Why is that do damn hard?

      Thank you for understanding it.

  3. As I was getting ready to leave my comment, my 10yo asked to read your post. It was a perfect illustration of how I have been striving to set aside my own agenda and respond to my kids, even when I’d honestly rather keep to my (entirely arbitrary) schedule.

    If it helps, she didn’t understand. I explained, and it still didn’t move her the way it moved me. They don’t hold our agendas against us.

  4. Oh I understand this and I wish parenthood didn’t come with guilt built in. Even if we were perfect parents we would still feel like we weren’t doing enough.

    • It;s what makes it all so dear though, isn’t it? I have to believe that if I didn’t constantly struggle with finding the sweet spot, then I’d take it all woefully for granted.

  5. This rings true for me. I can never quite nail down the feeling but it’s there. Especially between my older daughter and her little brother, like its time to pass the torch but big sis still needs bedtime ritual and time, too.

    • I am continually amazed by how I think I know what they need or what they are ready for and then they shock me, either with autonomy or needing me.

  6. Oh – thank you for putting this to words. The feeling of wanting the day to be done, and freedom from Mom responsibilities just for a bit. And then when you are released – the desperate need to go in and snuggle just a little bit longer. What was it I was rushing downstairs to get done? Check my email? Get snack ready for tomorrow? Fold laundry? They can all wait. And they do.

  7. This captured so much. I wonder about it myself. My own love for them (my children And grandchildren) is infinite and yet, at a certain hour, I am exhausted/depleted, and need to break away, and restore myself. Only to regret the parting weeks later and for the rest of my life, it appears. Wicked.

  8. Oh, Amanda.

    Totally relate. F wanted a “long-or-medium” cuddle last night. I love them, but I also crave a bit of time to myself at night. It’s hard.

    There’s so much to feel guilty about. (ahhhhrrghgh!) I already get the run-down of what I don’t do right. But then she’ll give me those sweet moments, crawling up in my lap, rubbing her cheek on my arm (I think she’ll purr), and then I think I must not be such a bad mom after all.

    So hard.

    Love you.

  9. Oh the push-me/pull-you of wanting them to grow up and wishing they wouldn’t, the managing all the aspects of my life and wishing for simplicity and time, even knowing that when those abound I’ll wish for chaos and clutter. Beautifully crafted thoughts that capture the complexity being someone’s mom.

  10. Wow–yes… sigh. I feel this often and you articulated it so perfectly. It’s easy to slip into the “sort of here” mode. I feel that I’m in that place often and I don’t feel good about it.

    I’m so glad you found my blog and now I could find you. Found you on Twitter, too. :)

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  13. I read this on huffington post last year and it was posted again today. I cried both times. Since I first read it I have thought about it often, especially when my kids want to stay outside for 5 more minutes or ask me to sing them one more bedtime song. It makes me hope I say yes more than I say no.

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