Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

On Being Not Enough and Laughing in the Dark

It’s late for a seven-year-old to be going to sleep, and yet, here we are. It’s the kind of late that you don’t tell the neighbors about because it’s a school night and they’re probably sleeping. Or, at least decent enough to be in bed reading or watching TV.

We’re laughing though, and laughing makes up for embarrassingly late because laughing in the dark with a seven-year-old is a thing we’ll always have.

“Remember this laugh,” I think. This innocence.

He’s making a goofy face, raising and lowering his eyebrows, and it’s dark in his room, so I can no longer actually see him. I know he’s making the face, though. Up and down, up and down. It is funny. 

I feel the expectation in his held breath and tensed belly. His patience for my laughter is barely contained. It is electric.

I laugh. How can I not?

He does it again. And again.

“Shhh,” I say.

“But you didn’t laugh this time,” he says.

“It’s time to go to sleep.”

He makes the face again, toward me this time, and although I can’t see him well, I crack up.

His desire to amuse me strikes deep. I remember my own childhood performances where reception of made-up plays and funny faces usually fell short compared to the ovations I’d anticipated.

I feel him begin to relax, and then he’s doing it again.

His body is facing away from mine, but I feel it tense. I laugh again and he asks me whether I have super-vision.

“Yes,” I say.

A pause, as he considers what this may mean, I suppose.

“Not really,” I confess.

“How did you know?”

“Because I know you. Now, it’s time to go to sleep.”

I lie there in the dark, knowing that these moments are limited. The clock on my phone laughs at me, and I think about the probably-sleeping neighbors, and wilt a little from the guilt. “Why didn’t I just say ‘five more minutes’ an hour ago?”

“I’m not enough.”

The clock on my phone agrees as the light fades. Even it is sleeping now.  

“Somebody else would know better and do better. Be better.”

I wonder whether I’m giving this not-so-little little boy of mine enough.
Enough attention, enough validation, enough discipline, enough of myself.

I think about my own childhood. I know I was loved. I was also misunderstood.

Does he feel misunderstood?

He makes the face again. I laugh, but do so more quietly. I don’t know what to do now. Should I leave? Ask whether he wants Daddy? It’s late, after all.

If I were enough, I’d know these things. We’d have been laughing in the dark an hour ago. Maybe even two.

His breathing evens out a little bit. He’s relaxing.

I think about school, and what to write in the email to the principal about how I don’t think being in Spanish class is a good thing for him. How to say that with both grace and power. There must be a way to express that you realize what a gift it is that the kids learn Spanish so young while also saying “Thanks, but no thanks. It’s just not right for us now.”

Then I get annoyed that I’m even worried about it. It’s such a simple thing in a world with such bigger fear and sadness.

He shifts beneath my arm, and my thoughts do, too.

I remember. I remember thinking “remember this.”

I smile in the dark, remembering how excited he was that I’d be chaperoning his class field trip on Tuesday.

I’m lucky, that he’s proud to see me.

“You guys! My mom is here!” he says to his classmates. None pay much attention, but he doesn’t notice through his bounces.

Tucker and The Tucker Car at DC’s American History Museum

“Maybe, you’re already enough,” I think.

My phone rolls its eyes as my son’s flutter less. He’s almost asleep.

“But it’s so late!” I think.

“Shhh,” I say. Sometimes, shushing our thoughts is what makes us enough. Sometimes, good enough is

I remind myself that had I skipped laughing in the dark at a funny face simply because of what time it is is something I’d regret more than a too-late bedtime.

I think about what I don’t do, about unanswered emails and lists. I also think about what I do do. About how often I’m able to help at school, and about how happy he is to see me, each and every time.

Seeing me at school makes him feel seen, I think.

Inside jokes and funny faces that make us laugh is enough. It’s more than enough.

He’s sleeping now. I unwrap his hand from mine, kiss his cheek.

“We’re both enough, kiddo,” I whisper. “Always.”


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “I am not…” Our sentence thinker-upper is Lisa of The Golden Spoons. I read this post and asked if we could use her sentence this week. I’d planned on writing about how I’m not as young as I used to be, how I’m not… I don’t know. How I’m just not whatever I’m not. But then, it happened as it happened, anyway. Apparently, I wanted to write about not feeling like I’m enough. Go figure. Anyway, link up with Lisa this week!

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  • Lisa @ TheGoldenSpoons - Love it! I often struggle with being enougha as a mom – being enough of everything to all three girls. It’s a lot of pressure to put on ourselves. I have to remember that no parent is perfect & that I would never expect another mom to bee 100% all the time. So why should I expect it from myself? We love our kids fiercely and do the best we can – and that is certainly good enough.April 28, 2017 – 9:14 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Why oh why are we so much harder on ourselves than we are on other people? It’s so true that we would never expect another mom to be 100% all of the time. So why from ourselves? Thanks for hosting with me this week and for the awesome sentence, Lisa!April 28, 2017 – 7:38 pmReplyCancel

  • Debi - Oh Kristi, this is so dear. It’s interesting that we both posted this week about how we want to hold on to certain memories, and also tied that to worrying about our in-the-moment parenting. I think staying up late because of joy is pretty admirable, actually. We certainly do more and more of that as our girls get older, and it works out ok.

    I just had my first experience of waiting up for my teenaged daughter to get home from a party. It was awful and wonderful and made me want to go through her baby book. I say YES, hold on to these moments and REMEMBER whatever you can! That will be enough. 🙂April 28, 2017 – 10:00 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thank you Debi! You’re so sweet. Yikes to waiting up for your teen from a party! The time goes so quickly… (and sometimes, so completely slowly!). Here’s to us remembering what we can and holding on (and looking at baby books when we need to!).April 28, 2017 – 7:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily - Your internal dialogue was so relatable. We all feel that way — questioning whether what we do and say is enough. Now that I have three (!) teenagers, who are testing me in all kinds of ways, I wonder if I did enough when they were younger — what I mean is, did I do enough to lay the groundwork so that they now make smart choices and continue to be good and kind humans??April 28, 2017 – 4:00 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Hey Emily,
      That makes sense. Sometimes, I feel like that now, even though Tucker is only seven. I see some habits from earlier years that have stuck that aren’t necessarily good (things like, we used to struggle to get him to eat anything and his weight was way lower % than his height…and now, sometimes, I feel like he’s eating more than he needs – it’s a weird side effect). And I think you’ve probably made really good foundations for those awesome boys!April 28, 2017 – 7:46 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerry - Beautiful words Kristi. Strict bedtimes aren’t always the answer, speaking not as a mother, but remembering how mine used to handle that part of the day. As long as he gets his rest, from what you can see. I can’t imagine being the one responsible for a life. Bittersweet.April 29, 2017 – 5:14 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thank you Kerry! I think that the too-late bedtimes are okay, too. So much so that there are times when I’ve let him sleep in and be late for school. Still though, sometimes while I’m lying there with him waiting for him to get more sleepy, I worry that I shouldn’t have let it get so late.April 30, 2017 – 5:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Allison Smith - Kristi, I wish you weren’t s hard on yourself. I always feel sad when I read you posts about not feeling like your good enough. You are the best momma! As for Spanish, we used to have it (and Barrett had French!), before the district ran out of funds. Barrett was the only one form his class hat went, so it’s not unusual to ask for an exemption. I let him go, because I believed it was kind of a break for him. And his teacher told me he loved French music. Believe it or not, he can still count to twenty in french. LOL.April 30, 2017 – 10:24 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Hey Allie,
      Mostly, I get over myself and realize that late nights and giggling in the dark are what makes up the good stuff but thank you! That’s awesome Barrett loved French music and can still count to 20 in French (I took four years of it in High School and can’t count to 20!).April 30, 2017 – 7:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Britt - Beautiful. I feel this all myself. Thank you.May 1, 2017 – 11:17 amReplyCancel

  • Dana - I know this feeling well, about not being enough. But I think the fact that we worry about that means that we try as hard as we can, and that has to be enough. And turn it around – aren’t our children enough? We don’t ask for them to be any more than they are. I believe in their hearts, they feel the same way about us.May 1, 2017 – 7:59 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I think you’re onto something with the fact we worry about it means a lot and I love the reminder that we don’t ask for our kids to be more than who they are… thanks, Dana.May 2, 2017 – 3:52 pmReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ The Meaning of Me - I love this – beautiful as always, and wise wise words. The bedtime thing is huge around here. I think I need to relax just a bit in that department. It’s hard, though – she needs the sleep, I need the sleep, but I feel too many nights like we rush and close the door and it feels…unfinished.
    I started a piece for this prompt. And then I went down a very dark rabbit hole I wasn’t expecting and it just got too ugly for sharing. I’m keeping it, though, to finish when I figure out exactly what it was that I wanted to say, or when I’m far enough past this funk to have a more positive point to make than what’s on that page now. xoMay 2, 2017 – 11:12 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I know what you mean about sleep. I feel bad (obviously) about it so often but then when it’s time to leave his room, I feel bad about that too because it being too late is my fault, not his, you know? I often wait for Robert to come home for dinner and I shouldn’t but I should and. Well. It gets late. I’m sorry that the piece took you down a rabbit hole that ended up being ugly and dark.. I have faith that something amazing will come from it though. Send it to me when you’re ready? XO and hugs. I hope the funk blows over soon…May 3, 2017 – 7:55 pmReplyCancel

      • Lisa @ The Meaning of Me - I play that should/shouldn’t game all the time. Too often. And all it does it make me nuts. We are so hard on ourselves as parents. I’m hard on myself about everything. And then I stop and think “what am I teaching my daughter by doing this?” Nothing good. Some days that’s the thing that keeps me centered.May 4, 2017 – 11:13 amReplyCancel

        • Kristi Campbell - That’s a good reminder… the whole “what am I teaching my daughter by doing this” thought. I need to do that more often I think. Sometimes, I do the opposite like if Tucker’s being hard on himself, I’ll be hard on myself and then he’ll tell me to not be and I remind him that he was…May 4, 2017 – 7:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Heather Burnett - I love this! I never feel like I am enough! Especially now. Especially working on my son’s IEP. We are waiting on the school to do their evaluations so that we can have a second meeting. I am not patient enough. I do not know enough. I am not prepared enough. I can’t read enough to know enough to go in with enough confidence to advocate for him like he deserves!
    Thank you for this reminder-though…that my five year old boy may feel seen next year if I do more at the school.
    I’ll confess that I have not thought of that!
    Your writing is lovely! Please do not judge my grammar & punctuation here:)) I’m in the car on my phone & I can’t see!!!😀May 3, 2017 – 9:42 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Hi Heather,
      Thank you for your sweet comment! Also your grammar and punctuation here was fine as far as I can see. Ah the dreaded IEP meetings. They’re ROUGH, for sure. The advice I always give is to remember you’re the Big Boss. Like, if you don’t agree, don’t sign. Still though. This is the first IEP meeting I’ve been in that I didn’t cry during it. But a few days later, I cried while volunteering at my son’s school because he got a new sound and his speech therapist came over because he was so excited… For the IEP – again. You know best. Trust YOU. (also hugs because IEP meetings suck)May 3, 2017 – 8:10 pmReplyCancel

  • Lux G. - That’s a sweet and powerful lesson to teach your child. I think it’s important that we keep reminding them this beautiful truth so that they can hold on to it when they grow old and times become confusing.

    Thanks for sharing this lovely thoughts.May 3, 2017 – 10:27 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thank you Lux! I really appreciate your kind words and agree that what we teach kids now is what they’ll hold onto as they enter more confusing times.May 4, 2017 – 7:11 pmReplyCancel

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