As I was the fourth child – there was no room left for questions to avoid going to bed. Mum had already thought of an answer for everything.
‘Mum, I’m thirsty’.
‘Why do you think I made you have that drink before you went to bed? Go to sleep’.
‘But I’m not tired’.
‘You’re not getting out of bed. You will be tired eventually.’
‘It’s too light.’
‘It doesn’t matter. If you close your eyes, it will be dark.’
When we were little, we often had trouble going to bed. Mum tried her best with a pretty solid bedtime routine. Dinner, quiet games only, and then bathtime. After a bath, Mum would brush our hair and read to us. Then it was time to go to bed.
This worked for a long time. But then we needed something more.
So Mum came up with Sleep Dust.
She had a little container on the mantle piece that was filled with what she called Sleep Dust. She would say that this was magic, and that Mr Sandman had given it to her to make us go to sleep and have wonderful dreams.
We would all line up before bed to get this Sleep Dust sprinkled over our eyes. Mum would oblige, and scatter the Sleep Dust over our eyes before putting us to bed. I remember falling asleep quickly so that I could see these wonderful, magic dreams.
As an adult, I think the container was an old pin tin and that it was empty. Mum would pretend to sprinkle something, but nothing was really there.
But also, as an adult, a little piece of me still wishes for that Sleep Dust and those magic dreams.
“But I’m not hungry…”
“You’ve hardly eaten any of that dinner”.
“But I don’t like peas”.
“You did yesterday. Remember, there is no dessert unless you finish”.
“But I’m not hungry FOR dinner.”
“But you’re hungry for dessert?”
“I will be later, when we have dessert.”
“All right – how old are you?”
“Right – eat 7 more mouthfuls and then you can leave the table, and have dessert.”
And put on an apron.
The kids will be home soon. It is time to get an afternoon snack ready, and to get dinner started soon after that.
Set the table with glasses and plates, and something homemade – biscuits, slice or cake. Something cold to drink in summer, or hot milo in winter.
The kids will sit at the table, but Mum stands in the doorway – with the tea towel over her shoulder. Sometimes with a broom, sometimes with a wooden spoon in hand.
She will ask the kids questions – what did you learn today, do you have homework, have you emptied your lunchbox and put it on the sink, don’t forget to change and get started on your homework. Often the kids volunteer a story from their day – and she will smile as she listens.
Before long, the snack is finished. Time to clear the table and get dinner started. She will wipe her hands on her tea towel and begin.