It was late one evening (during non social distancing times) and we were having a big family sleep over at my parents home. Which basically meant that there were six adults and four kids under the age of 12 sleeping pretty much everywhere.
I traditionally have had the job of tucking the kids in.
In addition to helping them get ready for bed, I had gotten into the habit of giving each of the kids a short back massage to help them unwind. They enjoyed it and it was good bonding time for us.
Well, the 11 year old niece, who was actually only nine at the time, had made a couple of comments about how my back rubs were weird and felt funny and so I took that to mean that she didn’t particularly enjoy them.
I had no problem with this. One less kid to give a back rub to, I thought to myself.
It would actually make the night time routine a little less labor intensive!
So anyway, it’s night time and I get all of the kids tucked in. I give a back rub to the older kids and then kiss the 9 year old niece good night, shut off the light and head downstairs.
Suddenly, in the dark I hear a little indignant voice say: Hey, what about me?
It’s my niece and I can tell she is feeling slighted.
I answer back, I thought you didn’t like my back rubs. She answers back, I didn’t say that. I want to be included too.
Oh, I’m sorry I say. I misunderstood.
And, I head back up the stairs to give one more child a little extra attention and some TLC.
But while I’m walking up the stairs I am thinking how my niece is my teacher.
If the tables were turned, and I was nine and she was the adult, I don’t think I would have spoken up. I think I would have laid in bed feeling rejected, feeling left out, and feeling hurt.
I so admired that little voice in the night that spoke up and didn’t just sit with her pain. I admired that she could ask for what she needed. I admired that she could say, Hey, what about me?
And so I laid down next to my niece and rubbed her back for a while. She seemed very content and relaxed and then she asked very sweetly: Can you rub my head for a little while, that is actually my favorite part.
I nodded and I granted her request.
And with that, the nine year old smiled and drifted peacefully off to sleep.
And in the quiet of the night, I smiled too. You got a love a girl who can ask for what she needs.
Sweet dreams everyone.