We had a bedtime struggle a few weeks ago.
My husband was working late, so I was left to put the kids to bed solo. Because I’ve been involved in a musical production these past few months, it’s usually been my husband who has put our kids to bed.
And they’ve worked out quite the routine.
After bath time, the kids are corralled and we attempt to get them dressed in their PJs. This usually takes no less than 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how fast they’re running that night. Usually one will be sporting nothing but a shirt and the other will be sprinting across the family room with a semi-attached diaper, squealing with glee as my husband and I trip over a thousand sharp-edged toys while lunging for their limbs.
After they’re finally mostly dressed, we all smoosh together in my 3-year-old's single bed, piled up two-people deep, to read exactly two books: “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site” and “A Book of Sleep.” Boston, the 3-year-old, reads along with us (he has almost every book memorized), while our 18-month-old karate-kicks the pages.
Then my oldest says, “I need a drink!” and my youngest pipes in with something that sounds like “Wahwerr.” Cups are passed along, water is spilled and cleaned up, and then it’s one in the crib and one in the single bed. After the lights are turned off Boston makes his usual lullaby medley request of “I Am a Child of God,” “I Love to See the Temple” and “A Child’s Prayer.” The songs have to be sung in that exact order. And if we sing too fast or skip a verse or three, there are shouts of protest and tears, and then we have to start all over again.
Then we give kisses, talk about what we’ll probably do the next day (if I don’t know, I make something up that sounds fun, although this can get me in trouble if I plant ideas that I may or may not follow through with) and then we turn on the white noise machine, blow one more kiss each and it’s goodnight.
Every. Single. Night.
Well, I missed one of these crucial steps the other night in my attempt to hurry things along and get them to sleep. As I was headed out the door, I heard my toddler yell something from his room. Thinking he was sleep-shouting (which he does sometimes), I ignored him and turned on the TV to unwind.
Fifteen minutes later, I hear indecipherable words coming from the bedroom. I realized that what I thought was noise from the TV was actually my son, still awake, and saying the same thing over and over:
“Mom! The white noise machine’s quiet!”
In disbelief, I walked back into the dark room.
“Boston, what are you saying?” I whispered loudly.
Quietly, he repeated himself.
“You think the white noise machine’s quiet?” I asked.
“You’re right, it is. It’s quiet. Now go to sleep.”
And that was that.
I was in shock. Has he been asking that same question every other night? What would have happened had I not heard him and answered appropriately? Would he be yelling all night? Knowing my son, probably.
Slightly worried about my son’s maybe slightly obsessive personality and need for routine, I began to do some research online. And what I found actually made me feel better. Bottom line: Kids crave routines.
“Toddlers love routines because the predictability of knowing what comes next makes them feel safe and secure,” it reads. “And that's certainly true at nighttime, when calmness is an essential ingredient for peaceful toddler sleep The best routine lasts about an hour, tops — and that includes everything from the bath to the final good-night kiss.”
I didn’t really find anything on how to get my child to sleep with only one soft toy instead of 20 that poke, or how to get him to move a little faster. But I did find great tips on brushing teeth, how to make bath time stress-free and the importance of nighttime reading. And I got some much-needed reassurance that my child was not the only one on the planet who has to do things a specific way every night.
In a way, it's sort of a relief that I don’t have to guess what he will like every night.
It will really be fun when my 18-month-old starts having his own opinion of how things should go at night.