Summer night lights

Here’s a thing you may or may not know about our family. When it comes to our kids’ bedtime, we do not mess around. We are lenient about almost everything, but not bedtime. Our kids go to bed at 7:30 p.m. every night. Even the almost-10-year-old. It’s a hard line that we hold because, if I’m honest, we’re done parenting around 6:30 p.m. So 7:30 is actually a stretch.

That’s why, when we signed up for swim team, I knew it would kill me. Meets start at 6, you say? And last until what did you say? They’re so late that my children are breaking my high school curfew.

Swim team is not for the faint of heart. (I am the faint of heart.)

At the kids’ second-ever swim meet, David got put in one of the later races. Tom and I decided that I would take Thomas and Anna home after the first part of the meet, and he would stay with David and Mary.

Experienced swim parents call this “half-time.” They say stuff like, “All the families with young kids leave at half-time.” Or, “All of my kid’s races are after half-time.” If you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, just casually mention half-time. Let’s get a hotdog at half-time. See, it’s just casual like that.

Anyway, I left at half-time with two very tired kids. And when we were walking out, Thomas caught a lightning bug. He brought it in the van and made me Google what lightning bugs eat. The whole way home we debated whether we should name the lil guy “Lightning” or “Bug.”

Before we could decide, the beetle flew away, and Thomas was devastated.

That’s when I realized that, one of the side effects of our kids’ very-strict early bedtime, we’ve robbed our bug-obsessed son the summer rite of passage of catching lightning bugs.

I put Anna to bed, then walked into Thomas’s room and watched his eyes turn into dinner plates when I told him we were going back outside to catch lightning bugs.

Mother-son bug-catching date, is there any better way to spend an hour? Maybe frog-catching date. It’s too close to call.

Catching bugs was one of my favorite things as a kid. I’m not nearly as good as I was back decades ago when I practiced all day, but Thomas is. As we walked out to the driveway, I instinctively¬† started giving him tips — once you see one flash just stare right were you saw it, then swipe at it with a cupped hand, they always fly up so aim higher than where you spotted it — but he didn’t need instructions.

He ran through the yard and quickly caught a jar-full, then kept going. Once the jar was full, his goal was to catch lightning bugs from our neighbor’s yard and relocate them to our side of the fence.

When he was gently dropping his handful of lightning bugs in the jar, I asked him, “Do you know WHY they’re lighting up?”

I should have known better. This is the kid who quizzes me on the habitat of the Gila monster and corrects me when I misidentify moths and butterflies.

“They’re talking to each other!” he shouted over his shoulder, running to find more. “And that’s MUCH better than yelling!”

When we finally went inside, Thomas asked me if we could do this every night. I didn’t have the heart to tell him no. We’re all much happier when we’re well-rested, kid. The tired days? That’s when our species reverts to that yelling you mentioned earlier.

Thomas fell asleep watching his lightning bugs crawl around a jar on his nightstand. He loves them, and I love watching his fascination.

I never thought I’d say this, but thanks, swim team, for keeping us up past bedtime.




  1. Taylor June 25, 2021

    What a BEAUTIFUL memory and very precious one-on-one time with your child!

    • amandakrieger June 26, 2021

      yes! that’s exactly what it was! sometimes you need a little schedule shake-up for those moments to happen!


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