Every night for the past several years Ruby has jumped out to scare me as I walk upstairs to tuck her in at bedtime. It was scary the first time. It was sort of surprising the second time. After that it was cute for a while, then annoying, and then it just became a part of the routine. I almost stopped noticing. I think I forgot to pretend to be scared. I would walk up the stairs, she would jump out and say “Boo!” and then I would smile and tell her to get in her bed and to stop being so silly. I never thought she would actually listen.
Friday night I walked up the stairs to tuck her in, not even bothering to brace myself for what I knew was coming, and then she started casually talking to me about something as I was approaching the landing. Nothing could have surprised me more. We just went into her room and I tucked her in like a normal person. It was devastating.
What happened? How could I miss so much something I did not even care about or like all that much? What is wrong with me?! But the thing is, it wasn’t just the boo that I missed. It was the little girl who began the boo. It was everything that five and six and seven and eight year old Ruby used to do, but doesn’t anymore. Most of the things go away gradually and I don’t even notice that they’re gone until long after the fact. “Huh, she doesn’t really sit in my lap anymore, does she?” But this one was not gradual. This was an every single night routine, suddenly ended. And it hit me hard.
So what do I do? Talk to her about it? Tell her how much I want her to jump out at me every night? Insist that she cling to rituals that she has outgrown? Prevent her further development into an adult human being? No. Of course not. Instead I will look at this moment as a blessing. This is an incident which has caused me to, for probably far too short a time, stop taking things for granted. Where are my children at now? What is amazing about these ages? What are they doing that they won’t someday? What should I enjoy now that I don’t really enjoy, because it won’t last? Maybe someday I will miss demanding that she brush her hair. Who knows?
And then, on Saturday, as I was trying to get Edward into bed, I couldn’t find him. I was searching the house for him when he jumped out of my pitch black office and shouted “BOO!” I shrieked and about jumped out of my skin. And then he and I fell to the ground and laughed, and laughed, and laughed.