The Same Thing Every Night

Submitted into Contest #3 in response to: Write a story about a parent putting their child to bed.... view prompt



Joan walks into the room and sees her 8yr-old daughter, Sally, laying in the bed. She looks around the room, spotting the numerous electronics present. Internally, she bemoans their existence. She wishes she could remove them from her daughter’s life so Sally could grow up the way she did: with a simple life. 

Sally, for her part, looks eagerly at her mother. Her arms spread wide in anticipation of a hug, dropping her stuffed alligator onto the floor next to her bed. Her smile spreads across her face.

Joan is a little surprised Sally is still awake. She is running behind tonight and is just now getting to Sally’s room nearly an hour after her usual bedtime. Though surprised, Joan is also relieved. Joan would hate to miss out on her nightly routine of getting Sally off to sleep.

“Mommy!” Sally cries out, “I was getting scared you weren’t coming.”

Joan walks up to the bed, retrieves the alligator from the floor, and places it next to Sally before wrapping her arms around her and gently squeezing.

“You know I never miss tucking you in,” Joan whispers in Sally’s ear. “And someone has to read you a story and sing you off to sleep.”

Joan pulls the cover up over Sally’s shoulders. The mother gently stuffs the thin blanket and sheet into the tight crevice between her daughter’s small body and the linen lined mattress. 

“That tickles, Mommy!” Sally shouts through a giggle.

Joan smiles down at her child, now playfully avoiding her mother’s tucking efforts.

“Shhhh,” whispers Joan as she puts a finger to her own lips. “You are not the only one getting ready for sleep.  You don’t want to disturb others.”

Sally mimics her mother’s actions, putting a finger to her own lips and quieting herself and whispering, “I don’t want to be tucked in tonight, Mommy.”

“Why not? I thought you liked being tucked in?”

“I do, but I don’t want to be tucked in tonight.”

Joan resigns herself to accept Sally’s child logic, knowing her daughter will not end up giving a good answer to her change of preference. Giving up on the tucking, Joan moves onto the next phase of the nightly ritual.

“You have your choice of story tonight: Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Little Red Riding Hood.”

Sally’s face squinches while she feigns deep thought and decision making. Joan knows exactly which story will be read tonight. No matter what choices she gives Sally, her daughter will always pick her favorite: Goldilocks.

“I want to hear Little Red Riding Hood tonight,” Sally tells her mother.

Joan’s eyes widen.

“Well, that is a surprise. Why do you want to hear a different story tonight?”

Sally meekly shrugs her shoulders. Joan jokingly shrugs her’s as well before setting aside the usual bedtime story and reading tonight’s choice.

Joan reads the story to Sally. She improvises here and there to make the story personal for Sally. She tells her Red Riding Hood’s real name is actually Sally. She uses a scary voice for the wolf dialogue. Sally’s face shines with wonder and joy at the new story being told.

Joan finishes the story and puts the book away.

“Are you ready for your song?”

“Mmhhhmm,” Sally quietly responds.

“Ok.” Joan lowers her voice to a whisper. “Hush little baby, don’t say a word. Momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…”

“No, Mommy. I want a different song.”

“Really? I thought you loved that song?”

“I do, but I want a different song tonight.”

Joan sits back and thinks for a few minutes.

“Alright. I think this is one you’ll like.” Joan leans in again and softly sings Scarborough Fair to Sally.

“That song was *yawn* nice.”

“I’m glad you liked it. It was one of my favorites when I was a little girl.”

“Can I have a snack before I go to sleep?”

Joan smiles, not wanting to tell Sally no. “You know you are not allowed to have snacks before bed.”

“Please, Mommy. Just this once?”

Joan shakes her head as she gives into her daughter’s wish. Joan leaves and soon returns with a pack of peanut butter crackers.

“Here. You can have these, but then you have to go to sleep. You are already up later than you should be.

Joan opens the package and hands it to Sally.  Sally slowly eats the crackers, desperately trying to extend her bedtime in the most obvious and childishly sneaky way. Joan patiently watches her daughter slowly eat the crackers. A few crumbs fall onto the blanket. Joan makes a mental note to clean them up before she leaves.

“Thank you for the crackers,” Sally says after swallowing her last bite of food.

“You are very welcome,” Joan says, allowing a prideful grin to appear in recognition of how polite she has raised Sally to be.

Joan grabs a tissue from beside the bed and wipes Sally’s mouth and hands clean. She takes the empty cracker package and cleans up the crumbs laying on top of the blanket. She throws the tissue into the wastebasket and give Sally one last hug.

“I love you so much, my little munchkin.”

“I love you too, Mommy.”

Joan releases Sally from her tight embrace. She moves to exit the room, but turns back briefly.

“Good night, Sally. Sweet dreams. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Good night, Mommy. Sweet dreams,” Sally says before closing her eyes and drifting off.


Joan walks out of the room and up to the nurse’s station.

“I’ll be back in the morning. Thank you so much for letting me stay late with her tonight.”

The nurse smiles back, “It is no problem. A lot of parents ask to stay past normal visiting hours. We understand schedules are crazy. It’s good that you spend time with her. She is always so happy when you come in.”

“Thanks. I just hate leaving, though. Every night I say goodbye to her, I am afraid it is the last time. I know I am being paranoid. It is the same routine every night. Nothing changes.”

August 23, 2019 13:44

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