One of the best things about being a parent is that when your children are young, we all invariably end up attempting to create our own bedtime routine. I know from talking to many parents over the years both as a dad and as a teacher, there is no single blueprint for how we make that happen. Sometimes it’s a bath followed by vigorous teeth brushing and a chase around the house before we end up getting those buggers tucked away, but for others it might include snacks, prayers, stories and other routines.
To look back on it now, it’s so easy to laugh and smile and think of all of the quirky, funny, and weird things we used to do with that time. I know for some, it’s more difficult depending on the age or personality of your short little loved ones, but for me it was rarely a time of stress or frustration. Maybe being a kid at heart helps that. I did learn a few things about life, children, myself, and bedtime routines!
First, remind yourself it’s just one of many opportunities that we have to bond and connect with our kids. And I love the fact that every parent can choose how they like to see that played out – get creative with it and enjoy. Many are very purposeful or regimented or see it as a lesson-teaching opportunity, while others choose a slightly more fun or chaotic routine. The ones who are really good learn to do both! But that was not me. 🙂
I divorced early in life and my kids were still very, very young and so most of my adult life as a parent was spent as a single dad. I had no spouse present to prod or question my methods, but had there been I’m sure they would have had a few pointers. 🙂 I think comparatively we may have been slightly left of the norm, but most parents would tell you, “Hey! Whatever works! Do that!” At least that’s what I told myself. 🙂
Our bedtime routine was kind of like being on the scrambler at the carnival and then immediately running over to hop on the roller coaster, followed by a chase scene straight out of a Ben Affleck movie where I usually ended up carrying one or both of my sons over my shoulder putting them in their bed, and tucking them in so tightly that escape was nearly impossible. Nearly. 🙂
At that point, it was storytime. My oldest son, just a few years older than my youngest son, felt completely in charge of what that story would be. As the “father of all things fair and just and good and true,” I often had to overrule and remind him that we take turns. Those were days that we often talked about the difference between positive and negative persistence. LOL So, I would read their chosen stories, and if I skipped any part of the story or attempted any shortcuts because I was tired and wanted to get to bed, these little military-minded midgets would call me out on it and bust me entirely! They did, however, allow me liberties with the stories themselves, and I could inject my own creative twist to the plot and characters at will. I also learned that if I used their names and included them as characters in the story, that was like bonus bedtime points and could instantly elevate my status from “dad” to “cool dad.” 🙂
I loved it. But we were somewhat unconventional in one of our other bedtime routine’s, one that we chose about equally as much as we did telling stories. Boy, I really did enjoy this, because I knew I had an ulterior motive which they never discovered until many years later.
Here’s what we did: I would sit at the desktop computer that was situated in the corner of our living room, and the boys would sit eagerly staring at me anticipating what song I would play from my iTunes library, and what question I would ask them about that song. It was our homemade version of “Name That Tune.” Having a background in music and music education, I knew exactly what to ask.
They would take turns answering questions like:
- What’s the title of that song?
- Who is the composer of that song?
- What instrument do you hear during this part of the song?
- What kind of an ensemble is playing that song?
- How does that song make your heart feel?
- Tell me the genre, and yes I actually used the word “genre” when they were three or four years old, and they would answer. They learned how to answer.
The questions were endless and I learned to challenge them while still making it a fun game. Oh my God, it was a hoot! My youngest son, Jack, was very competitive and he saw this game in the same way he saw every game. WIN AT ALL COSTS! Nick, my oldest son, was more than happy to exploit Jack’s competitive nature and his additional two years of life experience to tease his brother. Knowing their tender little ages, I tried as often as I could to have our little game end up in a tie. Of course, Jack would have none of that! And Nick’s little brain-trap of a mind would try to catch me somehow manipulating the scores, which I was truly just arbitrarily assigning anyway!
We still talk about those early bedtime routines occasionally, and a forgotten memory or happening inevitably pops up and we laugh. Obviously, I love my kids just as any parent does. I’m definitely not a parental expert, but I do have some advice for any parents who may be frustrated or stressed or still trying to figure out how to make their bedtime routine’s “work.”
That advice is to stop trying. It’s not worth it. Teach routine, responsibility, self-discipline, self-care, etc.. as often as you can – but loosen up bedtime regiments. And although it may be harder for some than others, if you’re struggling with the bedtime routine, don’t make that time one of those stressed moments if you can. Just have fun and get to know your kids even better than you already do! If you go to bed and before falling asleep realize that if you didn’t enjoy that time with your kids, GO WAKE THEM UP AND START OVER! And no, I’m not kidding!
Love, Peace, and Hope,