I sat down on the edge of my oldest’s bed. He had fallen asleep in front of a movie in his room, the theme song snippet playing in an endless loop. It was 6:30 p.m. on a Friday evening and he’d had the afternoon off from basketball practice after having games the previous two days. He’d gone in early for extra help, taken a math exam, recited the Gettysburg Address by memory, and who knows what else that day at school.
I touched his shoulder and he sat bolt upright, yet still in a fog, dispelling any question I had about whether he was pretending to be asleep.
“Oh, I’m so sorry hon – I didn’t mean to scare you!”
“Well, I just wanted to know if you wanted to go to Chess Club.”
“It’s in an hour.”
“Never mind. Go back to sleep. I don’t think tonight counts in the standings anyway, right?”
“Uhmmmm…” he lay back down on his bed and I covered him up. I went back upstairs to talk to my youngest.
Tap tap tap. I nudged him. He had headphones on with his iPod, which is a requirement if he wants to sit in the same room where I am working. “Your brother wants to take a night off from Chess Club. How do you feel about that?”
“It doesn’t count towards your rank. You know – it’s just Kids vs. Parents night.”
His eyes brightened and he smirked slightly. “I’m fine with that.”
I figured he would be. It’s his first year and he hasn’t won that many games and his enthusiasm has been steadily declining as the season progresses. Personally, I was fine with it also because I am not a big chess fan (my kids and I do not share all the same interests, but I do try to support theirs). Besides, it had been an intense week at work, I still had plenty to do, and I wanted to wrap up at least a few things before I shut down – firmly committed that even if I worked on a Friday night, I would not taint my weekend with my job. Plus we had an early out-of-town hockey game and then three basketball games the next day.
“I’m going to go put my pajamas on right now!” he announced.
“Yeah, me, too!” Although I already had pajama-level-of-comfort clothes on that I had only just slipped on to go to the bus stop that morning (but I never got around to changing even though I’d gone to school to pick up my middle son who called from the nurse’s office before 10:00 a.m., apparently stricken with whatever I was getting over from the previous weekend). I had even worn the same clothes out to the bus stop that afternoon, too, consoling myself with the fact that I was five nines sure “at least I didn’t have these same sweatpants on the day before at the bus stop.”
It’ll be Pajama Night! I thought. My middle son had put on his pajamas the moment we got home from school – after just a quick detour to the supermarket to get cough drops and soup – and parked himself on the couch, only to fall asleep on all the classwork he’d brought home. He’d manage to rouse himself to get a little work done but had retreated to his room to check in online with his Minecraft friends. Also not a big chess fan, he is not a member of Chess Club.
Ah, Pajama Night…It reminded me of the good old (hard) days a decade ago when the kids were little and shaking up the dinner-bath-bed routine with Pajama Night was one of my compliance insurance ploys (boys who haven’t had dessert yet are far easier to manage than boys who have nothing to look forward to but bedtime). Pajama Night helped me to imagine that bed time was just that much closer and made it possible to linger over dinner, because the messy (hard) part was already done.
On this particular Pajama Night – the only one not in his pajamas was the only one actually sleeping. He slept through his next youngest brother trying to wake him up at 9:30 p.m. when he went to bed, since his brother was under the impression that it’s not healthy to sleep so much (or maybe he was just bored). And he was still asleep the next morning when I hauled his youngest brother out of bed to go to the early, out-of-town hockey game.
“Sometimes we all need a night like that,” the Chess Club coordinator suggested when I saw her the next day at basketball.
“Apparent-LEE,” I emphasized the last syllable to underscore my complete agreement. I recalled a factoid I’d heard about the high school years being a time of intense growth and change for kids – as much so as the period from birth to age four. My oldest is preparing to go to high school next year. From one Pajama Night to the next – we’d come full circle. Yet, it’s a new frontier.