Between the big box of toys on one side and the basket full of stuffed animals on the other, Zachary was squirming under the snug covers of his bed. His father was lying next to him, tucking him in. This was part of their nightly routine, something that both Zachary and his father loved. Zachary had already gone to the bathroom, washed his hands and brushed his teeth. He was wearing his bright red cotton pajamas, the ones with the little white cars and trucks.

“Tell me the story about Jeremy,” Zach encouraged his dad. “Tell me the one about the party and then tell me the one about the potty.” Stories about Jeremy were also part of their nightly routine ever since Zachary’s dad had invented Jeremy in one of his bedtime “imagination stories.” After hearing for the zillionth time about how Zachary, his sister Sarah, and Jeremy had so much fun at Zachary’s birthday party and then about how Jeremy and Zachary helped Sarah learn how to use the potty, Zachary was finally ready to go to sleep. Or at least enter into the next phase of the night-night process, “sleep with me a little bit for awhile.”

Zachary was at least learning how to negotiate, thought his dad. No longer satisfied with the “I’ll sleep with you for one minute” from his dad, Zachary now bargained for how long Dad would stay. “How about five minutes?” This from Zachary. “How about two minutes?” This from Dad. And so on until a decision was reached. For this night, like many nights, the two decided on three minutes.

Three minutes – or thereabouts anyway – the next and final goodnight phase began. “Okay, give me a hug and a kiss,” said Zachary’s dad, who gave his son a big bear hug, reaching his arms all the way underneath Zachary’s back and shoulders. Zachary reached up and put his small but growing arms around his dad’s neck. Then Zachary gave his dad a kiss on the lips. Finally, Dad got up out of his son’s bed and started to walk out of the room. While walking towards the door, Zachary’s dad turned and said to his oldest son, “See you in the morning. I love you.”

“I love you too, Daddy,” came the slightly high-pitched voice from under the covers, behind the blanket and teddy bear. On the way up the stairs, Zachary’s father couldn’t help but smile.

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