Monday, April 30, 2012

Go to sleep…Please.

I remember those years. I remember when the kids were little and feeling as if my life depended on them going to sleep. Because only when they were asleep could I be (partly) off duty. Bedtime was a time I looked forward to why couldn’t the kids?

I have to admit I was spoiled at first. My oldest son loved to sleep. I had to wake him up the first night home from the hospital in order to feed him. So bed time was no drama. And we enjoyed hanging out together anyway.

But #2 was a whole ‘nother story. As a newborn he would sleep…for 20 minutes at a stretch. With his fist coiled tightly in my hair. And his head on my shoulder. We went through some tough times for the first year or so. And the poor little guy was so unhappy. No wonder… he was exhausted.

That was when I realized the things that #1 and I did for enjoyment as we got ready for bedtime really were essential to help #2 fall asleep. Plus anything that is repeated and becomes a ritual is reassuring to kids. Children thrive on the assurance of knowing what is happening next because they have done the same thing every night. I began to think it through: The sun doesn’t just turn off like a light switch why should we expect our kids to? So here is the simple bedtime routine we used.

Everything in this routine pointed to downshifting. Life was getting slower and quieter on purpose. We sometimes watched a TV show together. One show which was preapproved and screened by mom. 
No rough and tumble wrestling with Dad. (That was done when they attacked him as he walked in the door.) Dad can be a huge help with this routine as long as you are both on the same page with the whole calming atmosphere idea. Sometimes dads can be vunerable to suggestions like pillow fights and racing up the stairs.

Having rough and tumble boys usually meant a bath was necessary before bed. But it also is a great means of relaxing, if you make it so. Warm water. Relaxing soapy head rubs. A big fluffy towel. And end with a lotion rub on little legs and shoulders, hands and feet.Then brush teeth and into their own beds.

But I had already made their room ready. Toys scooted out of sight. (My kids had to have a clutter free floor before nightfall because I always told them, If a fire fighter needs to come rescue you he shouldn’t have to walk on your Legos) Clean sheets and warm blankets turned down and ready. I had a dim light turned on so as not to use a harsh overhead light. Lights are getting progressively dimmer as they get closer to sleep. 

Then we would snuggle with our favorite books.
Invest in a collection of classic children’s books. Real paper books. No screens, just soft paper and the swish of turning pages.Use your best soothing voice and cuddle together with a story or two or three. I certainly can recommend some great night time reads.
Runaway Bunny  Margaret Wise Brown
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
The Beast in the Bathtub by Kathleen Stevens
Winnie the Pooh   by A.A.Milne (not the Disney version)
A Child’s Garden of Verse   Robert Louis Stevenson

A poll of my kids last week showed that all three named Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown as their #1 best remembered and favorite bedtime book. Every child should just be born equipped with their own copy as far as I am concerned.

Make sure the kids know how many are going to be read before you begin and stick to your guns about it. Even though this became my favorite part of the day and I could read all night we needed to have an end time.

When the books have been read, it is time for night time prayers. Even the littlest one can learn “Dear Jesus, I love you. Amen.” Use this time to begin to gently nudge them to a vibrant prayer life with their Heavenly Father. Take the time to talk about their prayer needs and encourage gratitude and worship as they talk to God. And don’t forget to pray for them as well. Your children need to hear you praying for them.

My oldest would then have me turn on music for him to fall asleep to (the child loved Motzart best) But the younger two liked stories. I highly recommend Adventures in Odyssey by Focus on the Family. They are amazingly well made Bible based stories done like old time radio dramas.  There is something dreamlike about having stories or good music floating around the room like a starry night.

Last is the tuck in and kiss. And leave the room. You are trusting them to learn how to fall asleep. And if the siblings talk a little, then that is a double bonus because whispers that mom cant hear help cement the love and trust between brothers and sisters.

Bedtime, can be your most treasured time of the day as the kids unwind and just enjoy cuddling and hanging out together. I urge you as tired as you are, don’t rush this tender sweet ritual, you will build a store of memories to hold onto forever.

links:  for Adventures in Odyssey info. They have podcasts and downloads avail here.

What is your routine? What has worked for you? Please share!

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