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Sunday, May 27, 2007

No more 11 minutes...

When Noah could first talk he would always try to convince us to let him stay up longer when we told him it was bedtime. He asked for an extra 30 minutes and I countered with an offer of 5 minutes, then it went to 20 and 8. Eventually, we settled on an agreed to 11 minutes of extra time. So, since he was 3 or so he and I have spent the last 11 minutes before his bedtime doing something that he wants to do (that was also part of the deal).

Noah, being Noah, almost always wants to do something sports related. When he was smaller it was tackle football in the living room. This resulted one time in his breaking my finger. As he ran by me towards the loveseat (his "endzone") I dove and grabbed the elastic band of his pajama bottoms. My finger got under the elastic band, but as I rolled it didn't release and my finger snapped like a dry twig. It's still bent at about 15 degrees. If it wasn't a football game then he would have me throw the football to him as many times as possible in 11 minutes. "Make me dive!" was alway his plea, and I would grade his catches - from 1 to 10. Hockey was also a big sport for 11 minutes.

Since we moved to Prague last summer, he has gotten very interested in soccer - which he insists on calling football (despite the fact that real football is played with a quarterback and oblong ball). We play soccer in the living room - he used to want me to shoot on him, but lately he wants to shoot on me.

I have a bad back and as he has gotten bigger the sports we played during 11 minutes has often left me worse for wear. I was usually relieved when the 11 minutes are up, but I also enjoy the time with him. Even if we got home late from going to a movie, or out to see friends or relatives, he would always ask for 11 minutes. This would lead to further negotiations and usually result in a shortening to 5 minutes. But time playing together is always something he insisted on.

Or at least he did. One day last week he didn't mention 11 minutes and ended up going straight to bed. I figured that it was an aberation and that he would get mad when he realized he had forgotten and missed out on 11 minutes for the night. But no, the next evening he again went up to bed without thinking about 11 minutes. It's now been a week and I suspect that 11 minutes is gone for good. We have done it nearly every night for over 6 years - most of his life - and it suddenly has just stopped. I now can sleep through the night because my back doesn't ache, but I don't think the tradeoff is worth it. I miss my special 11 minutes with him every evening.

I am hoping that the time spent together playing for 11 minutes every night will be replaced by other things that we do together, albeit less regularly. We have talked about taking road trips to see three baseball games or three hockey games in other cities. That would be fun. But I also dread the day - and I know it will come - when he won't want to spend time with me at all. I'll just be the embarrasing, very uncool, dad. Sigh! There's a good chance that we will get close again when he is older - after he has his own experiences and realizes that his dad (and mom) knew more than he gave them credit for. But for now all I know is that I've lost 11 minutes every evening with Noah, and those were the best 11 minutes of my day.

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