Bedtime Stories: The Family Bed – Are You For or Against?
When my kids were little we had a long bedtime routine. Tubby time came first, then story time, then tuck in, lights out, and night-night songs. Each kid got to choose three songs and I would sing to them—a dubious gift, but they seemed to like it. Some nights it turned into twenty songs or endless songs, depending on the mood. But you get the idea. And because of the years between my children (five between the first and second, seven between the second and third), I performed that night-night routine every night for nigh onto two decades.
Yes, that should earn me a medal, or at least a really good old age home when the time comes.
(Aside: One day a year or so ago while talking to my 27-year-old daughter, Stephanie, she said, “Don’t worry Mama. You won’t end up in a home.” Overflowing with maternal love I said, “Aw, thanks, sweetie. I love you, too.” To which she replied with her trademark smirk, “Yeah. I’m sure Joey or Christina will let you live with them.” All that singing to her for naught. *sigh*)
I’ve tried to remember my own childhood bedtime routine. I don’t recall having one, but that’s probably incorrect. I do remember being tucked in, having my mother smooth my eyebrows with her fingertip and kiss my forehead. I remember my nightlight. It was round and white with little pink rosebuds on it. I sometimes fell asleep in the living room “by accident,” because then Daddy would lift me in his strong arms and carry me to bed, and I adored being held close to his chest. He was always so warm, and on that trip down the hall I knew nothing in the world could harm me.
Most of what I’ve read on the subject indicates children and their parents both benefit from a bedtime routine. We always had the bedtime routine for our young ‘uns, and sometimes it was smooth sailing and at other times a battle. Sometimes they fell asleep in 20 minutes, and on other nights I warbled the entire score of The Little Mermaid through yawns and clenched teeth.
The pundits talk about things like stress hormones when kids get too sleepy and transitional objects for moving from wake mode to sleep mode, and I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I’m kind of wondering what people did centuries ago when there was no Dr. So-and-So to tell parents “the best way” to do things. I guess they muddled through the way most of us do, with some nights easy breezy and others not.
When my son was about nine months old our pediatrician told us we had to stop bringing Joey to bed with us when he woke up in the middle of the night. “You’ll regret this habit if you don’t break it,” said the doc. “When he wakes up and cries, just let him cry. Cover your head with a pillow. Turn on the radio. Do whatever, but don’t give in. It will take three nights of this, but after that he’ll sleep all night in his crib just fine.”
This is what he was doing . . .
This is what we wanted him to do.
Night one arrived. In the wee hours, as usual, little Mister woke up and started wailing. He stomped. He screamed. He cried. He bounced. He tested the springs on that crib mattress and they squeaked, sproinged, and screamed under the assault. In our own bedroom across the hall, the hubster and I huddled together in the dark like a pair of refugees. It was 30 minutes of hell, and tears ran down my cheeks the whole time. My poor little waif. He sounded so distraught. Pained. Maybe he was scared, or maybe he thought we had abandoned him. The possibilities stabbed my heart.
At last. Quiet. I wiped my cheeks dry and sniffled. Maybe the doctor was right. Maybe this was all for the best.
In the morning I heard the happy babbling of my little beloved. I peeked into his room and my heart crashed. There was blood across the top of the crib railing. Blood, people! During his tantrum bouncing, Joey had likely banged his chin and bit his lip or tongue. No, it wasn’t gallons of bloodshed, but it was blood nonetheless.
Night two arrived. In the wee hours, yes, little Mister awoke. I thought of what the doctor said. And then I went to my little boy and satisfied both of our hearts. I lifted him into my arms, cuddled him, and brought him to bed where he breathed easy snuggled between the two people who loved him with unconditional fervor. All three of us were asleep in minutes.
Screw the doctor. I knew what was best for my baby.
Awww . . .
And guess what? Little Mister isn’t so little anymore. Joey is 32 and married (I posted proof that he survived my mothering – see the picture below), and I assume he doesn’t wake up crying in the middle of the night, but if he does it’s his wife’s problem now.
Good luck, Ashley. His favorite night-night song was Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA,
just, you know, in case you ever have an emergency situation . . .
I kind of miss those nighttime routines. Yes, they were time consuming, and I’ll admit I didn’t always pursue them with a joyful heart. Some nights my heart was exhausted along with the rest of me. And sometimes I really just wanted the little boogers to go to sleep so I could put my feet up and snuggle with my husband. But I wouldn’t trade one moment of those night-nights, not for the whole wide world. Bliss, it seems, often creeps up on us when we’re not looking.
Did you have a bedtime routine when you were little? If you are a parent, do/did you have a nighttime routine with your kids? Also, where do you stand on the matter of the family bed? Is it okay to bring your kids to bed with you, or do you believe they need to sleep alone? Please leave a comment. What’s your opinion?
Thanks for hanging out with me!
Enjoy your Wednesday –