Monday, December 04, 2006

Let's talk about our day

Bedtime is usually when I've about had it.

I've made it all through the day's work, supervised schoolwork, gone to activities, made dinner, given baths. By bedtime, I'm pretty much on "E." Especially if my husband is traveling.

But there's this little tradition we started when the kids were small, and every night, no matter what big-kid activities have delayed bedtime, what conflicts have marred our evening, and no matter how bedraggled we feel, we can expect this phrase from five kids:
"Let's talk about our day."
For the little ones, it is usually a running commentary about what we ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. "For lunch we had Mac N Cheese. It was hot-hot-hot!!"

As they get older, they start to include activities of the day, who they played with, and interesting things they learned. I've learned all about Arthur episodes, dinosaurs, guitar chords, volleyball moves, and drama club goings-on.

I kept thinking that as the kids got older, they'd somehow outgrow this tradition. Maybe someday we'll be able to cut this bedtime thing shorter. But no. In fact, when I try to get off with "just" a bedtime prayer, I get a long sob-story about how I "never" get to talk with them (I despise whoever it was that said, "Perception is reality" because it really stinks when you are tired and just want to go to bed!). Then a very prolonged discussion ensues. So I've learned, even if just in the interest of time, to simply go ahead and ask the question, "How was your day?"

Most nights it starts out much the same. What happened, who was there, surface stuff. But if I wait long enough (and this is the trick, especially when the horsing around has gone on too long and I just want to hit the hay), sometimes little hearts open. Dreams, feelings, hopes, disappointments all come out. Slowly, at first, and usually not directly. But they eventually come. Some of the most important conversations with my kids have taken place when I was just about to leave. I wonder how many I missed because I did leave?

(As if to prove my point, I just read one interesting study reporting that 75% of Canadian teens said their most meaningful conversations with parents take place at the dinner table, in the car, and at bedtime. )

Along with my other soapbox of family dinners together, I want to make the most of bedtime. Guard it, even. Even when the topic is Mac N Cheese. Even when I've been with them all day and it doesn't seem like there could be anything more to say. Or even when they are as big as I am and they don't act like they want to talk. I even want to ask about their day when I think I am too tired to listen to tweens repeating the word "like" 500 times, and to a teen who seems to come alive about the time I'm turning into a pumpkin!

Just one peek into the soul of my child is worth the effort. It gives me one more chance to apply the super-glue of shared memories that bonds us together. Even if that means I need a nap during the day to get through all the bedtime tuck-ins...

Do you have a bedtime ritual?
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8


Anonymous said...

Ours is very similiar to yours and yet I experience the same weariness that just wants to shout some nights "everyone just go to bed", and yet we too have experienced some of the most meaningful conversations and prayer times with our children. Just the other night my 11 year old daughter prayed with me and I was weeping over the depth and beauty of her prayer. And to think, I may have easily missed this.

Beck said...

My husband handles bedtimes. He sees them for a whole hour and a half a day during the week, and so that is HIS time with the kids. He's really enjoyed reading the kids all of the children's classics that he missed out on a child.

Jennifer said...

I love this post. Bedtime is my favorite time of day. We do baths, PJs, brush teeth, then "thank God." Since my little ones are so young our prayer time begins with a little talk about what we want to thank God for today. I then rock them each on the way to their cribs while singing a little Good Night song I made up when they were tiny. (They sing it with me now, which is really fun.) Lots of "I lub yous" as I leave the room.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank you! I never even thought of creating such a warm, helpful bedtime routine with my daughter. And yet, I see so many rewards and blessings coming from that time of talking. Thanks again for the wonderful advice!!

T.S. Eliot said...

Beautiful post, Katherine. I will take your words to heart for when my kids are older and can actually, you know, talk.

As for me, I've been singing the same songs to Elijah everynight since before he was born. "Now the Day is Over" followed by the Lords Prayer, then Now I lay me down to sleep, and prayers for the whole family. It's what my mom did for me growing up and I'm proud to carry on such a sweet tradition.

Deidre said...

You do not know how much I needed to read this tonight. I've been exhausted lately and the bedtime 'ritual' has been wearing me down. I have sang a song to my 5 year old every night since she was born and now she is so dependent on it. Afterwards, we talk about her day and she goes on and on and on. I have friends that tell me I need to quit this time, but it's so precious and so worth it. I will endure. I'm sure there will be a day when she will not want me to sing and talk. I'll cherish the moments I have with her now. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

That is such a great idea. Thanks for sharing. My kids are still little, but I will be adding that in tomorrow. Thanks!

Cheryl said...

Bedtime is SO precious and SO hard to do well night after night.
I found myself cutting the bedtime routine short and tried this...taking a 30 minute break just after are in final preparation for bed (running and shouting and laughing and hyper:-))...I go to my room for 30 minutes of no talking. My kids are used to this break and usually let me have it with few interruptions. This mini-break made me more able to listen and hear and be present through the bedtime rituals... which for us means Bible story, songs, prayers and good night song for each child as tucked in.
Thanks for the reminder to treasure the time and LISTEN. I always need to listen more...

Anonymous said...

Good post. We've now tried this two nights with what I would call success. I love to hear their perspective on our day. I'm happy daddy when I get to talk to my three boys.

Anonymous said...

My hubby and I added this discussion to our nightly routine with our three little boys. We have come to cherish the conversations that we have. Thank you for this suggestion!