I’ve been experiencing a bit of a bedtime conundrum when it comes to Mr. Jonah.

He’s almost three-and-a-half, and stopped taking naps around the age of two. So I’d gotten used to him being exhausted come bedtime, and falling asleep within a few minutes of our lying down together.

Yes, I still lay down with him at bedtime. I’m not ashamed to admit that he nursed himself to sleep until a little after his third birthday, so I’ve literally put him to bed every single night of his life.

But after the Magic Boob went away, the time it took him to fall asleep began stretching out slowly, extending ever so gradually, from ten minutes, to twenty, to forty-five, and finally to last night’s new high of sixty full minutes to fall asleep.

That’s a long time for a mama to lie next to a wiggly, whispery-chatty preschooler, trying to coax him to sleep.

I never did this with my other two. Both were taught via the cry-it-out method to fall asleep on their own before they were a year old. I’d read a story, say prayers, give them a kiss, turn out the lights and that was that. They fell asleep on their own. I know that really, at any time, I can do the same with Jonah. Just “lower the boom” and decide that from now on, he’s getting the same bedtime routine and that’s that.

Except…it’s not such an easy thing to decide. Especially not after nights like tonight.

He was crying, big-time bawling, when I walked him to bed. And then I had the audacity to turn off the light, unaware that he wanted to do it, and OH — that was just the end of his little pre-K world!

So we got into bed, his arms full of his sheep Timmy and his fluffy Dog, and he is wailing miserably and I’m just silently praying that it’s not going to take an hour for him to fall asleep again tonight.

“OK, Jonah, that’s enough — you need to stop crying now and go to sleep,” I said firmly.

“I don’t WANT to go to sweep!” he said shakily, then grumbled some more, and before long the grumbling melted into weak moans.

“You’re OK. It’s night-night time now. So, let’s say our prayers.”

He sniffled and slipped his little hand into mine and I said our usual three-or-four sentence prayer for sweet dreams and good sleep and healthy bodies.

After we said “Amen,” he started trying to rev up the crying again, but only half-heartedly. But then he grabbed my hand once more and said, “Now Jonah pway.”

And he whispered in the sweetest little voice, “Pwease help Jonah stop cwying. In Jesus name. Amen.”

Oh, my heart!

But the tears stopped. And then we began our usual routine of saying goodnight to all his favorite things. There’s never been a need to read “Goodnight Moon” to the child, as he came up with his own version of it all by himself.

“Night-night, Dog,” he whispered.

Then it was my turn to repeat, “Night-night, Dog.”

And then we go around the room, saying goodnight to the traffic sign decals on his wall (Night-night, S-T-O-P. Night-night, Children at Pway. N’night, Widdle — that’s the yellow triangular sign with the wiggled arrow on it.)

Then it’s the light, then the white birds that hang over the window, the blankie and the pillow. But tonight, he took a little humorous detour.

“Mom, say, ‘Night-night, Fruit Minja!'” (His favorite computer and smart phone game.)

I obediently wished the Fruit Ninja goodnight and then he said, “Night-night, Windows 8.”

And I couldn’t help it, but I burst out laughing, LOUDLY!

Which of course, made him crack up, and then fueled even more good-night shenanigans.

“Night-night, Windows 44!” he giggled — making me laugh out loud again. He called off a few more things, then whispered them as I shushed him, and he wiggled around a while before settling onto his side, facing me.

I felt his two soft little hands slip up to cup each side of my face, and in the dark, he missed his mark and planted a soggy little kiss square on my right nostril.

“Wuv you, Mama.”

“I love you, Jonah,” my heart melting as I returned a kiss onto his velvety round cheek. He tucked one hand under his chin and the other under my arm and within moments, was sound asleep.

Tonight, I stayed there a little longer than I had to, stroking his silky, clean hair, inhaling its sweet fragrance of fresh air and traces of fruity shampoo, resting my hand on his little back, feeling the rhythmic rise and fall of his soft, sleeping breath, each breath a gift. This child a gift. Such a precious thing, this privilege of being mama to such a little guy and knowing from experience how completely fleeting this phase of life really is. It seems like just yesterday that my eldest was only three, and now he’s bigger than me, telling me daily how much he can’t wait to be on his own and sometimes, when he’s angry, glaring at me with such contempt that it almost takes my breath away.

Oh, how the years fly by.

So, I lay there tonight, cuddled beside my Jonah, wondering why I’d want to follow the parenting advice and give up this precious time that will be gone before I know it? Because, really, what else do I have to do in those quiet, dark minutes at the end of his day, but than to adore and be adored?

Maybe bedtime’s not such a conundrum after all…