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.
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.