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Kiss around: A bedtime ritual

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Sunshine has developed an elaborate ritual for bedtime. We start with pajamas and teeth, of course. Then she chooses her book and climbs into bed. I braid her hair. She snuggles under the covers, I snuggle next to her for a few moments, then we read the story. After that, we turn on her bedtime music, and I turn out the light. All pretty standard so far.

After turning out the light, I lie with her for a few minutes. When I leave, whether it's after one minute or 10, we have to do "kiss around and belly," then "four and three.""Kiss around" is when we kiss around each other's faces, naming each part of the face as we go. Forehead (kiss), nose (kiss), ear (kiss), cheek (kiss), chin (kiss), ear (kiss), cheek (kiss)."Belly" is six kisses to the belly, followed by a raspberry, counting the whole way. One (kiss), two (kiss), three (kiss), four (kiss), five (kiss), six (kiss), seven (raspberry). As you probably can imagine, there is much giggling. First I do this to Sunshine and then she does it to me.Finally, she gives me seven kisses and hugs, counting. This is "four and three." One (kiss and hug), two (kiss and hug), three (kiss and hug), five (kiss and hug). Lots of giggling, then one (kiss and hug), two (kiss and hug), five (kiss and hug). More giggling. She knows very well she miscounted and is very impressed with her own silliness.I get up and go, with possibly a few more hugs and kisses and many "I love yous." Then there's a final, "I want my Daddy to come in." I don't know where or how it started, but we have been doing this for several months now. There are some nights I dread it a little, thinking I have too much to do elsewhere in the house. Sentimentality usually prevails, however, when I remind myself that this phase is not going to last forever. One day there will be no more "kiss around." I must get my belly raspberries while they are still offered freely.The boys had equally elaborate rituals at the same age. Rituals that were silly and sweet and just ours, and I was sure, so sure, I could never possibly forget them. What were those rituals, you ask?Actually, um, I've forgotten them.So many people said to me at the time, "Write these things down!" I laughed, sure I would never need to do such a silly thing. I'd remember. Of course I would remember.But time, distance, age (all of ours) and business do dim the memories. Sometimes memories get confused among the kids. Which boy did that again? But I thought it was the other one? No? Huh.More than ever, I try with all my might to take mental snapshots of these moments. I write many of them down, too. Still, some will be lost. Last night at bedtime, as I was leaving, Sunshine said, "Let's do kiss around, Mommy! But no belly tonight." Just like that. Poof.

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