Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Joy of Bedtime

Oh, yes! I want to convince you to think about bedtime in a positive light if you don't already. Something that can seem akin to a nightmare can actually be one of the best parts of your family's day.

When I was a first-time mother, I focused on--okay, obsessed about--this routine. I filled my brain with many different ideas, opinions and strategies from parenting books that were all over the board as well as other parents who had "already been there." This led to some good and some anxiety-inducing advice, and an overall general confusion on my part about the right way to get my child to sleep. So I spent a great deal of time attempting to sleep train my firstborn to various degrees.

And, gee, did I pat myself on the back for what a great sleeper he was. Bedtime was an absolute joy because my firstborn (who slept through the night our first night home from the hospital) was usually very eager to go to bed every night.

Bring in child #2...I very, very quickly realized my firstborn's easygoing sleep habits were a deeply-imbedded personality trait he was born with and had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with my parenting. All the "tricks of the trade" that had "worked" on my firstborn were very quickly chewed up and spit back at me by my second born.

As time has gone on, in order to maintain my sanity as a parent, I have tried to reframe bedtime. I saw myself as having two options:
  1. I could approach this time of day with trepidation and anxiety, making the last moments of the day together undesirable and unlikeable, or
  2. I could approach this time as an opportunity to connect with my children and have some much-needed one-on-one time.
So much of our day is intertwined in busyness and chaos; bedtime is the one time of day where everything can finally slow down. And I realize my children are keen to this too. Getting out of bed or asking for one more drink of water is not them purposely trying to be aggravating. They just want one last chance to get your undivided attention.

Think about it: bedtime usually occurs in their arena, so you can't be distracted by your laptop or the laundry or dinner. Why not indulge them a little? I guarantee in the teenage years, you won't be asked to get them a drink of water or give them one last kiss or even tuck them in. Take advantage of these moments while they're still a reality!

One of my favorite things about being a parent is seeing my children sleeping. There is something so heartwarming in it. All the cares, worries, heartbreaks and struggles of the day will quickly fall away when you look at their tender, innocent faces.

I initially wrote this post back in October, being inspired spending about half an hour calming and snuggling with my youngest, who was worried about having a nightmare about Dracula (pronounced Drak-lee-uh). When I thought he had finally drifted off and I tried to make my sneak exit out of his bed, he cupped both hands around my face and whimpered, "Don't go yet!" How can a mom say no to that?!

Remember, at bedtime, to focus on the parts that you like best. I love reading stories with my children, sitting between them and having both of them snuggle into me. Remember, also, that you can't control how your child will respond to bedtime tonight, but you can control how you respond to them.

What is your favorite part of bedtime?