Sweet, Sweet Bedtime

I am in love with bedtime...  My goal is always to be walking away from the kids with a "good night" by 8:00.  On nights when Ben is working out of town (during the week these days) I have bedtime down.  7 o'clock rolls around and we head upstairs.  My children have taught me that they need to ease into bedtime so I make sure to give them time to do that.

We have followed the same routine for years - jammies on, brush teeth, wash face, read together, sing songs, good night.   In the early days the read-sing-good-night combo happened in the big bed that we all shared.  Now we have finally reached the point where both kids have their own rooms and we get to walk away while they are still awake.  This is important to note because Ben and I got a lot of advice about how our kids would never leave our bed if we let them co-sleep.  I am proud to report those people were wrong.  When Ben and I decided that the co-sleeping was no longer working for us, we made the change.  For a long time the kids were welcome to come in after they had initially fallen asleep in their own beds.  Today they have come to realize how comfy it is to be in their own space, snuggled down under the covers, with a favorite stuffed animal.  Hallelujah!!!

Ok, so back to bedtime.  Yes, I give them about 40 minutes to do 10 minutes worth of stuff.  Some nights they need to do a little tidy first, or perhaps they get distracted (What???? My kids?????), and all that time still assures that I am saying "good night" at 8:00.

Now this hour from 7:00 - 8:00 isn't always the easiest for poor old mom.  I am anxious to move into the time of day that is all mine.  Mine to do whatever I want without the needs of children keeping me busy.  Knowing this time is approaching can often send me into a bit of a frenzy, especially when the kids are dragging their feet on the routine.  I have let this anxiety get the better of me before, not a pretty sight.   The kids know too, that we are approaching a time where mom says "good-night" and leaves.  Sometimes this gives them a bit of anxiety, even though I am not actually going anywhere (how old do they need to be before I can leave them alone????). I don't know if we can tune into each other's feelings or what, but it is usually the nights where they are doing all they can to avoid the routine that I freak out as well....

Isn't it funny how what I write about presents itself to me in real time...  I am listening to my husband try and get the kids to head up to start the routine and my daughter is doing high kicks in the family room...  I  hear loud footsteps upstairs and my sons voice saying, "Dad, look how fast I can run!"  Now I hear, "Daddy, look it" from my daughter, with lots more thumping.  Its tough, you know?  We have to be removed enough from our own emotions to recognize that the kids want to keep holding on to us, and will do what they can to avoid the "good-night."  The fact that they are tired and need to go to sleep can often make it even trickier...  Anyone have an 8 year old in tears over nothing???  You know what I am talking about...  That need to keep us engaged no matter what...

This is a great parenting skills test for me.  Because those meltdowns over nothing can really send me to the moon.  The tools that I pull out during these times are, 1.) walk away - those meltdowns feed on an audience, and 2.) keep my mouth shut - nothing I say is going to help.  Sometimes when I use these tools I am met with a slammed door and louder sobbing, but that usually subsides when the child realizes life is going on outside her room and that she would rather be a part of the action than miss it.  And then I use a final tool that is a godsend in times like this.  I say, "I am available for reading until 8:00.  Right now it is ___."  I then plop down on my bed and wait.  Its amazing how quickly they get their stuff done and join me.

Don't get me wrong, I have had bedtimes in the past where I have refused to sing to a kid because I am so mad.  I mean, what parent wants to sing "you are my sunshine" to a kid that they just spent the past hour yelling at???  I always feel so bad as a parent those nights...  Its the end of the day and my kids are falling asleep thinking mommy's a meanie (they don't know how to use the word bitch yet), or worse yet, mommy doesn't like me...  But more and more often I am remembering that we all do better when we feel better.  I am remembering that although I look forward to bedtime, the kids don't.  When I can stay connected and involved with them as they get ready for bed, we have a great time, and they are much more likely to fall asleep quickly with a smile on their face.