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my sister-in-law has four kids, most of which are older than ours (the eldest is already driving-age). at a recent gathering the sister-in-law and marty were exchanging notes about their summers thus far. marty commented how our bedtimes had already shifted back an hour or two and how it changed our home's dynamic, especially for her time-sensitive-regimented-neurotic-insane husband. the sister-in-law gave a knowing (but not disrespectful) chortle and asked marty to imagine having much older kids who were no longer bound by sensible bedtimes. she said that even in the school year on her way to bed she would occasionally pass by a child's door whose light was still on. in sticking her head in she'd find her fourteen year old with books spread over the desk and fingers laced through their hair while their palm supported the fatigued weight of their head. they'd glance over long enough to dejectedly say, "math test tomorrow" to which the mom would say with an empathetic tone, "don't stay up too late sweetheart."

she went on to describe a world where the kids just never go to bed before her and her husband. the collateral damage of this is she and her husband rarely get routine time together like they did when all the kids were young and hopefully asleep by 9pm. for parents still deep in the pre-ten year old game, i imagine many, if not all, would gladly trade the rigors of the little-human nighttime rituals for that same child sitting alone in their room reading a book until one in the morning and thus putting themselves to bed even if at unrecommended hours. that said, i've heard more than one mom with grown kids pine for just one more night of reading to their totally dependent and criminally cute little child who is ever ravenous for just one more parent-read book. these women in remembering the scene, usually have a distant stare or tear in their eye. for those still in the game, it's hard to imagine wishing for more of what we're getting with relentless regularity.

and then there was another mom i overheard marty chatting with on a different occasion (i'm an incurable eavesdropper) who described what the evening hours were like with her two older girls. she said a week earlier one of her kids came to her at ten p.m., dropped a stapled block of papers in her lap and asked for help. the mom straightened up in her recliner (as she was about ten minutes from bed) and asked what the child needed help with. the girl said she didn't understand this assignment. the mom adjusted her glasses and looked at the page for a moment. she then turned to the daughter:

MOM
this isn't even in english.

DAUGHTER
yeah, i know, it's french.

MOM
but i don't know french.

DAUGHTER
you said you took it in high school.

MOM
yeah, twenty-eight years ago.

after that night a 9 p.m. homework questions deadline was instituted. boys, menstruation, funny smells and breast buds, sure. french, calculus and chemistry, an emphatic and possibly guffaw-laced no.

JUN2011

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