Bedtime: a mixed bag
After a long day, and even the great ones just feel so long, I’m READY for the kids to sleeeeep so I can have my own time. Sometimes they, too, are weary from a big day of playing, traveling, or learning. When they’re overtired and I am exhausted, bedtime is a gigantic battle. We have a hard time keeping the words nice on those nights. These are the times when I am extra thankful that His mercies are new every morning.
But also, this is the time I’ve protected almost every night for over two years, as “our family time.” Our rooms are joined by a door that does not fully close, so I am the first thing they see in the morning and the last thing they see at night. In the morning, I’m usually a groggy mess until that first cup of coffee, so the evening tends to be a much better time to connect.
How it used to be
Bingham wasn’t very old when our family made the choice for me to stay home with the kids. For the next couple years, and when William (Billy) was born, I didn’t necessarily have a daily plan but we would just do whatever seemed right each day. Playtime, meals, and diaper changes all happened but, in no specific order. I’d add dressing… but let’s be honest there were quite a few days we just stayed in our pajamas because babies and mom and why get dressed exactly? We were doing well without a routine. We didn’t feel we needed one.
Night time wasn’t much different. Eric came home from work, spent time with us, and then we put the kids to bed. One night he would do it, and another I would do it, but we switched off without a plan really. Sometimes we gave baths, sometimes we read books. Our methods separately were different and it wasn’t consistent when we did it together either. And that was totally ok for where we were at. My firstborn slept through the night at four months, while my second took about eight months, because babies are so different… and so were we. We grew, changed, made mistakes, had victories, and just loved our kids with what we had when we had it: the same way most moms and dads do this crazy parenthood gig.
But there was one consistency: Eric liked to sing to the boys, and I loved to hear him from inside or outside their room. He sang many songs, but the one I’ll never forget is a lullaby made popular by Bing Crosby, “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral.” The song is written as a man reflects about his Irish mother who has passed on. Eric sang it to his sons as his father had sung it to him.
A new routine
Immediately after Eric died, bedtime was intensely painful for me. Every night as I faced my children, their father’s absence was shocking and debilitating. I don’t know if I read it somewhere, or if it just felt right to do so, but I decided to create a routine for us. I felt that I needed more consistency, a plan of action to do the next right thing whether it was hard or not because this time was unavoidable. At nine months and less than two-and-a-half years, a routine was just right for the boys too. Our schedule went something like this: jammies; read a book together; sing songs; pray; go to sleep… with a bath before hand if they needed it. Simple, sweet (usually), and effective (most of the time).
The jammies have changed because my boys grow like weeds out of them, but the concept remains. The books have changed, because there are so many fun ones out there. One of our favorites is the Jesus Storybook Bible (not an affiliate link). Billy especially likes to read the one about Goliath. Bingham likes to switch it up, but any story including water is generally his pick. This is usually the time one or both of my boys will ask good questions that might be stalling, or might be excellent conversation starters before bed. I wrote about those here.
Many of the songs have changed, but not all of them. For a long time we sang “Twinkle-Twinkle” almost every night, and then it was, “The ABC’s Song.” And for almost two years, I’ve been singing “Oh Holy Night,” by request. Every once in a while I stop singing mid-song to hear their sweet voices ring, “the thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices…” It might be traditionally a Christmas song, but it’s simply a Jesus song and kind of a tradition to us. I used to only pray, but now they usually also do. And every night I tell them, just as my father used to do, “I love you forever, for always, and no matter what.”
Before our prayer, but sometimes also after everything else, we have a special song that we sing every night – my favorite part of bedtime on smooth nights and hard ones. On that first hard night after Eric died, and every night since, I sing the song he sang in a little different way. Here are the lyrics I use:
Too ra loo rah loo ral; too rah loo rah li
Too ra loo ra loo-ooh-ral,
Hush, now don’t you cry.
Just a simple little ditty,
That your Daddy sang to you,
And I’d give the world
If I could hear him singing to me too
Too ra loo ra loo ral; too ra loo ra li
Too ra loo ra loo-ooh-rah
That’s your Daddy’s lullaby
There are still nights, every once in a while, that I can’t quite get the words out. But my children, after years of singing those lyrics, can now sing it at the top of their ever-loving lungs.
Bingham and William: I wish your Daddy could sing to you, too, my bear cubs. I am so glad that I still can. I love our family. I love you forever, for always, and no matter what.