At some point early in our parenting career my wife decided that it was my job to put the kids to bed. Originally this was a shared responsibility but it was suggested by her that it would be a good time for me to spend with the girls, since I didn't get see them most of the day. Her statement was accurate even though I work from home, and truth-be-told, I was already enjoying my "turns" at bed time.
Transitioning from babydom to the realm of little kids in this regard, though, was a 180 degree rotation. Trying to get a toddler to sleep who would rather not can challenge the sanity of the strongest mind. But once they get to the age where they sort of understand the routine and embrace it, it becomes something wonderful.Yes, there still are elements of discipline when needed, but those moments are easily combated with a calm statement suggesting removal of whatever the next step in the routine is; "Get into the bed now or no book." "Stop messing with your sister or I'll close the book right now." "Get under the covers or no song."
Our routine is:
1) Brush teeth.
2) Read a book (sometimes Holly-8 will do the reading) - some of our favorites are Big Sister Little Sister, Oh the Places You'll Go, and Room on the Broom, but right now we're getting old school with the Boxcar Children series.
3) Each girl gets tucked in with an individual song - sometimes I'll lie on the bed with them while I do this (at their request), but this is now very rare with Holly...Hannah (6yrs) is still adamant.
4) Shouted professions of night time love (see video below).
5) The occasional kid-out-of-bed problem solving event.There are so many reason why I love it so much. For one, the kids are in their PJs and in hyper-snuggle-mode. I love to hug or snug in a chair or on the couch with my kids any time, but somehow they're extra squeezable in PJs.
Second, they look forward to what I'm giving them. Most of the time everything I'm trying to get them to do around the house is something they don't want; brush your hair, flush the toilet, eat your dinner, do your homework. But bed time is different. They want me to read them a book. They want me to sing them a song. They want me to tuck them in. I am wanted and I am loved the most out of all other portions of the regular day in these moments and it happens everyday like clockwork! ...lucky me.
This is also a time where I get to spend focused one on one time with each of my kids. Right before or after song and tuck-in time, they will often want to chat a little. I get to hear about stuff, get asked questions, and often walk away with something so hilarious that I have to repeat it to my wife. Since they're in a very reflective and contemplative mode as the head hits the pillow, somehow they're so much more thoughtful and it just spills forth.
"LOVE YA--AH!" I SO much enjoy the outward professions of affection we give each other to end the event. Out of all other rituals our family enjoys...hoola hoop hugs, high-fives for love, fist bump on a job well done - the exchange I have with my daughters at the end of the bed time routine is my all-time favorite.
Lastly, I know this is fleeting. I know that soon Holly will not want me near her. The book reading will stop. The songs will be retired. Dad will officially be "gross" and not someone they want to marry...sigh. They will put themselves to bed because they will be young adults.
Even though sometimes I do have to skip book because they're not listening, or skip the song because they're goofing around, I always, always, always end bed time in the same way. Love, love, love. "Love you more then you love me-ee!" Funny how easily any frustration or stress I have can dissolve after hearing those words.