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When kids are little, the bedtime routine is almost a mantra. Bath, brush teeth, books, songs, bed.

Well, it’s more wrangle them into the bath. Then you promise you won’t get water in their eyes and then apologize for getting water in their eyes.

They will in turn promise to not splash water out of the tub and then have to explain why there are 3 gallons of water outside the tub.

Summer in bath

Once all this is completed, you try to convince them to actually get out of the bath.

Then you brush their teeth. Of course, the dentist says you should start flossing their teeth. But that seems ridiculous since you barely brushed your teeth as a kid and turned out fine. I mean, except for the cavities.

Then the books. You own so many amazing children’s books. But your kids will want to pick a Dora one, a Barbie one or a superhero one with absolutely no plot. You will promise yourself that you will hide these books tomorrow but of course you will forget which is why you have read, “I am Superman” 37 nights in a row.

Then songs. My 5 year old son has been making me sing the same two Christmas songs for a year and a half. He will not waver. I think a kid at school bet him that he couldn’t give me a nervous breakdown. And he was like – oh I sure can. Give me some time.

After songs comes the goodnight. Then a glass of water. Then goodnight. Then a quick back rub. Then goodnight. Then a mysterious just discovered very painful injury on someone’s finger. I can’t find any first aid ointment so I put strawberry lip balm on it and apparently this miraculously takes away the pain. Then goodnight. Then one more kiss. Then goodnight.

This kind of thing goes on for many years until one day it doesn’t. I don’t remember the day when my older girls (now 9 and 11) started taking their own showers. Or stopped sitting in my lap while we read picture books. Or when I stopped singing them songs. Or having to put strawberry lip balm on imaginary injuries.

But slowly, it just happened.

And what filled the space is probably the most important part of my day with them.

Sometimes I’ll read from chapter books we pick out at the library. Sometimes they can’t stop dancing around the room despite my pleas that it’s time to PLEASE CALM DOWN. Sometimes we play a card game. And sometimes we just talk.

The tween who has nothing to say after school suddenly has all kinds of things to share if it means just staying up a minute or two longer.

This is the time I learn things about them. The time I find out what’s whirling around in those growing brains. What’s worrying them. What’s exciting them. What they forgot to tell me.

And yes, this is also the time that I’m tired. And hungry. And kind of just want to watch my favorite TV shows. But I really try to hang tough and be with them.

Because the chaos of the day is over. And the quiet of the night hasn’t yet begun. And sandwiched in between is a short blip of time when I can connect with these forever changing people that I love so much.

I guess we do still have a bedtime routine. It just changed along with them.

10 Responses to as kids grow, the bedtime routine fades away. making room for something even better

  • Lanie says:

    Thanks so much for this post Kelc. I am trying to change with the present and not miss the past (or long for what never was) but sometimes I have trouble keeping everything in perspective. This post is a great reminder. xoxo

  • Debbie says:

    I love this (as I do all of your posts). My just-about-to-be 10-year old barely talks to me all day. But, he still wants me to come up and tuck him in every night. I cherish those minutes and he actually talks to me at this time. Bittersweet moments, all of them.

  • Then the teenage years come and once you put the little ones to bed with the routine you’re used to and describe above, you have to muster up the strength to go and push your way into the teenagers bedtime routine which seems to shift nightly depending on their priorities (I.e., homework, sports, new TV show, snap chatting with friends, etc) and try and read their needs (another word for ‘moods’!) and TRY and get them to share. Sometimes they ‘let you in’ (offering to bring them a bowl of ice cream or fruit usually helps) and sometimes they don’t and that’s when you have to pull out a whole new set of ‘mama tools’ to stay connected. I’ve been known to learn the whole lyrics to their latest pop song to make this happen! Lol. Cherish the time. I was just realizing that my youngest (6yo) is not sneaking into our bed in the middle of the night any longer. It’s been a couple of weeks now. I’m missing the elbows and knees in my back. Who would have thought. 😉

  • Mary Clare says:

    Bittersweet! My daughter spills her worries and frustrations at bedtime, too. I love to hear about her day – what went right and wrong. I like to think we’re laying the foundation for good communication through the teen years.

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kelcey kintner