Even as just a little baby she fought sleep. The party girl runs deep in this one, she doesn't want to miss one single moment of living large to sleep. We have established lots of bedtime rituals over the years. As a result, we thought we'd share some with you:
Sing me a song. "Can you sing me a night song please?" she often requests. I love to sing, so this has become my singing-in-the-shower equivalent. I go through repertoires of The Beatles, old lullabies and hymns from my childhood. I often quietly sing long after she has fallen to sleep.
Read me a book. I don't think there is a person on the planet who doesn't love to be read to. I had a friend that read to her son every night well into his teen years. It was a connecting point for both of them and a nighttime ritual they always returned to.
Tell me your three wishes. My kids loved this little game we used to play when I tucked them in. Each person would say their three wishes for the other person for the next day, week or even for their life. It is a nice way to teach kids to think and hold nice intentions for the people they love.
Share a story with me. Storytelling is such a beautiful art. My kids love to hear both make believe stories and stories from my childhood. They listen so intently and ask questions like little sponges. It is a lovely way to connect to the past and share a little more of yourself. You can also tell stories together encouraging creativity.
Play highs and lows to recap your day. Highs and lows are a favorite in our family anytime of the day. Share the best part of the day (high) and the worst part of your day (low) as you are preparing for bed. I often am surprised by their answers. This little game often opens up other important conversations and offers insight on my kid's perceptions about things. It always gets us talking.
What are your bedtime rituals? Is there anything special you do to connect at the end of the day? We would love to know your ideas in the comments.
Carter and I are facing each other on the little twin bed, the one he and Madeleine dragged from her room into his for reasons I still don't quite understand. He is buried under two blankets and one very toasty sleeping bag while I lie on top of the covers in my long sweater, jeans, heavy socks and boots.
"You goin' somewhere?" he asks, and I wonder. As our family morphs into a new configuration, it's not clear at the end of the day who will sleep where. For all the peace we've forged in the process, so much is still uncertain.
"I'm not sure yet," I say, imagining how well I'd sleep next door at Nick and Jess's guest bed with that down comforter and four hundred thread count sheets instead of this tiny bed. "But I'm here right now. Tell me what you're thinking."
He smiles in his own unflappable way and scans the ceiling, thinking up his answer.
"Okay. So if you were ever stranded on a desert island and you could only bring one thing, what would you take?" He says "desert" like dessert and I imagine sandy shores made out of sugar-y pixie sticks with gummy candy palm trees swaying in the wind. I don't think I'll ever say desert island properly ever again.
"That's easy. A lifetime supply of paper and pens."
"Mom, be serious."
"No, I am being serious. If I had a lifetime supply of paper I could write about everything I was thinking and experiencing and I would never be lonely or bored. What about you?"
He doesn't miss a beat. "A pair of socks," he says, and I see his eyes light up like the Christmas tree that we forget to unplug every single night.
"Socks? You've got to be kidding me," I say, but he's not.
"No, seriously," he explains. "Socks. Number one, they're really warm. Number two, you can use them for sock puppets which are really fun. Number three, you can put a rock in them and they make a really useful weapon."
"Really?" I'm positive I'm listening to a regurgitated Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, but Carter claims full authorship of this clever idea. Socks. On a desert--I mean--dessert island. Why didn't I think of that?
He has the widest grin, so completely captivated with his own brilliance, and I wish for the lifetime supply of paper right now so I can get started making myself happy by writing down all the ways he makes me glad--dessert islands and practical wishes being just about as good as it gets.
I'm reminded reading of recent losses online, that none of us really knows what the future holds. Things fall apart, the unfathomable happens. Something unexpected shows up out of nowhere and turns everything upside down in an instant. And you can't imagine how you'll ever be the same again.
Tonight, in honor of the dessert islands, brilliant moments and impossible losses, let's ask our kids a silly or heartfelt question and savor the sweetness of the answer. This is the moment we have to share. Feel free to offer up the question you'd like to ask your kids in the comments below.
dedicated with so much compassion and love to Shellie Ross who lost her son this week
Remember me, the mother who was waxing eloquent about the dawning of the conceptual age where children will cherish their Kindles and Zelda just as much as their books?
This diatribe was followed by this episode with Carter who cried buckets during his last bedtime reading session (something that rarely happens now since he discovered Calvin and Hobbes) because he'd unearthed a copy of Go, Dog, Go.
Go, Dog, Go would not be on my top list of books that make children love books or reading, but evidently I am mistaken.
Carter (sobbing): I just love this book so much.
Me (reading on automatic since there is no real plot or narrative arch to this book whatsoever): Buddy, are you okay?
Carter (wiping the snot from his tear-streaked face): I used to read it when I was a kid.
Me (because I can't resist asking kids ludicrous questions like this): Are you missing your childhood?
Carter (still quietly weeping): Mom, don't worry. They're just tears of happiness. Because I love this book sooooo much.
So books aren't dead after all. Who knew? What books are your kids loving at bedtime at your house these days?
If you are like me, you're looking at the calendar and thinking Oh dear Lord, how will I ever get these children back to a normal bedtime before they start school on Monday? The answer is: You won't. But. You can get headed in the right direction which is what we're doing right now.
Here's where you can start:
Wake everyone up bright and early. It doesn't matter if they get dressed, speak to you or are coherent in anyway. The point is that they wake up and get moving. By the time bedtime rolls around, they'll at least be a little bit more tired (and ready to sleep) then usual.
Cut way back on screen time, especially in the evening. No more watching a movie together before you go to bed. The part of the brain that needs to wind down, winds up in the presence of visual media, so cutting that out of your child's evening diet will definitely help move things along in the nighttime hours.
Do some family research online about how much sleep is required. If you have a blossoming logician at your house (like we do) this kind of fact checking makes a strong argument for a reasonable bedtime. This also cuts down on sibling issues because the research shows which ages need the most sleep--ironically, that number goes up and down depending on where your child is in development.
Get those rooms in order. Now is the time to break out the comfy sheets, buy a new pillow and make that room a crib any child TV star would be proud of. In the same way your kids needed convincing sleep space when they were babies, they need a good place to snooze now. Reinforce as many positive associations with their sleep space as possible.
Nudge bedtime a little earlier each night. Ideally, you would have started this two weeks ago (where did the time go?) but it's never too late to start. By gently moving your kids to an earlier sleep time, you'll be giving them the support they need to wake up naturally on their own come a school day morning. I know I've succeeded when no one needs a morning call to wake up and everyone comes down on their own accord--yes, it can happen!
What's your best tip for getting kids back on schedule? Do you ease them in gradually or go cold turkey on a school schedule bedtime? Or (perish the thought) do you actually put them to bed on time all summer long?? Tell the truth in the comments below.