There are so many days that I wish I could just skip bedtime all together. It’s stressful. The kids are exhausted, I’m exhausted, and the last thing they want to do is listen to me tell them to go to bed (because they insist that they aren’t tired.) There are times when I have to fight them to get their pajamas on, to brush their teeth, to go to bed without tears.
Avery has been on a rampage lately and is making it the hardest. She’s hell-bent to do everything herself. The second that it doesn’t go her way, she is going to let you know about it. At bedtime she demands to pick out her own pajamas, put the toothpaste on her toothbrush herself, pick out the bedtime story, the list goes on and on. While her independence is enough to make me (or anyone) go crazy, I’ve vowed to make bedtime in our house a pleasant rather than an hour full of choas.
So I’ve put away my phone and any technology (except for our nightly dance party.) The television is off, the iPad is put away, my computer is shut down, and my phone is no where in sight. From 5-7 pm, it’s all about them.
MacKay’s commute makes it hard for him to be home every night for dinner, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have family dinner. We sit at the table and talk about anything and everything. Tonight’s conversation was about Abraham Lincoln (Harlan’s learning about him at school) and Valentine’s Day (Avery made a Valentine’s Day craft today at school and was very excited.) Dinner used to consist of me begging the girls to eat while I ran around the house and tried to straighten up just a bit. Now the house remains unkempt and I sit down for real conversations with my daughters (and some baby banter with Macks.) Just this little change in our routine has done leaps and bounds for all of us. I no longer have to beg Avery to eat bite after bite at dinner and Harlan is so open about everything going on in her life both at school and with her friends. This is what dinner time is supposed to be like. This is what it’s all about.
There really is something beautiful about watching your child read. Harlan now reads us a story each night after dinner. She brings home books from her library and sits on the couch reading them over and over again. The breathtaking part is when I catch her reading to Avery while I am trying to get Macks ready for bed. Those two could sit on the couch for hours reading. They dive into these books together and discuss the stories, getting lost with one another.
While they are reading, I take Macks upstairs to nurse him and rock him to sleep. He’s just getting to the age when I can tell him we are going “night night” and he knows what to expect. I’ll nurse him for a little bit and then tell him to “give momma love” and he will lay his head on my chest while I rock him back and forth. For a little boy who doesn’t ever want to stop moving, this is a moment that I would love to make time stop just so I can soak it all in. I told myself I’d never rock them to sleep when they get older, but I’ve thrown that rule out the window. And because of it, he’s going to bed (and sleeping through the night) without any hesitation.
We finish bedtime with one more book before heading upstairs. I let the girls do their thing with their toothbrushes, pick out their dolls that they want to sleep with, and we say a quick prayer before lights out.
I walk downstairs shortly after without that feeling of a weight being lifted off of my shoulders, without the need to pour a glass of wine, and most importantly without the stress.
Our routine didn’t have to change drastically to make a huge impact, I did. It was my mindset, my determination to make this better for all of us that made me make the much needed change. And I’m so glad I did.