MEANINGFUL VS. MANIC BEDTIME ROUTINES
Posted by Melissa Thorson
There are a few things I could learn from my husband:
It’s not that I don’t love those sweet bedtime stories and final snuggles with my kids that I see are numbered in a child’s life—it’s just that I allow my preoccupation with what awaits me after the bedtime circus to stress me out—the sink full of dishes, the lunches to pack, or the alluring uninterrupted time to chat with my husband, or watch a non-animated show.
My tone and my word choice follow a predictable pattern many nights, despite the fact that I dislike the tone that my hurriedness creates in our home. “Alright, it’s 7:24. We have 6 minutes until lights out.” “If you’re not in your bed by the time I count to 10, no books tonight!” Meanwhile, frantic children with one foot in their PJ’s and toothpaste foam dripping down their chins are taking frantic leaps from floor to bed as the timekeeper barks through the halls.
My husband, however, takes a different (and, arguably, a better) approach when he’s leading the bedtime routine. He often is so immersed in the pre-bed chase/tickling/wrestling that the pulse of the room is only fun (with no room for frantic). Once bedtime is imminent (or even past time), his calm connection with the boys carries over into the nighttime setting. Books are read expressively—with no skipped pages for the sake of hurry. Questions are asked and thoroughly answered. Prayers are said with meaning and intention. Snuggles are savored and stretched out even though the clock (and antsy mommy who clings to routine) say things are running behind.
But I’ve seen, more times than I can count, the fruit of lengthy bedtime conversations with the boys and their dad. Fruit that offers more lasting benefit than an extra restful night’s sleep. If I had been left to my own punctuality-obsessed devices, the following moments between dad and sons could have been missed:
These quiet moments, when left untainted by rushing and preoccupation, serve as reminders that home is the safe place—to ask harmless questions about how the world works and a place to cry out for help and comfort. A place to feel loved and heard no matter what.
Don’t get me wrong—I am still a firm believer that good sleep is important and that sleep deprivation can create a vicious change in kids that can carry over for days. I will always be a firm supporter of bedtime routine and predictability—but I’m learning that amidst routine, there needs to be space for spontaneity. Practically speaking, I’m seeing that if we plan for dinner and bath time to happen earlier, then the bedtime “rush” can become more leisurely. Or, if we divide and conquer putting the baby to sleep while beginning bedtime with the big kid, we can both end the night together in the room with the big kid who is old enough to want to chat with us at night.
What have you found works best for savoring the quiet moments during tucking-in? (Even though you know there are dishes, bills, or even your first 5 minutes of personal time waiting on the other side).
About the Author:
Melissa is a former high school English teacher turned stay-at-home mom who traded in the essay grading for diaper changing . . . both of which offer their fair share of crap. She has always loved teenagers and feared little kids until she had her own. 90% of the joy in her life comes from her husband, Steve; her sons, Crosby and Miller; and her amazing extended family and friends. The rest comes from cooking and taking online personality assessments.