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.