My oldest sons are only a year apart in age. When they were very young I would count down the hours and minutes until I could shut the bedroom door and have “my time.” The definition of which was to watch bad television and lay on the couch in an exhausted heap. Let me be completely honest, there were days that I was looking forward to bedtime by 9:00am.
I can still remember their chubby little hands blowing me kisses while I stood in the doorway. I can still see their tiny bodies swallowed up by their gigantic beds. Our evenings were a set routine of bath, stories, songs, and finally sleep. I used to long for the days that I would no longer need such an elaborate bedtime routine, days where I would be able to just breezily kiss them goodnight and they would go to bed on their own. I had a hard time believing that day would ever come. So many nights I would try to rush and escape from their room before they noticed.
Who would have thought that now, all these years later, I miss it.
Now we are a busy family with teenagers. Bedtime? It is never the same from day to day. And routines have all but been lost in the shuffle. I may lie in bed and snuggle my 4 year old as he falls asleep, but usually there is one or more children shouting at me in the background, “Where is____?” insert some item of earth shattering importance that they simply must have at that exact moment. And I end up shouting back for them to quit shouting. It is all very conducive to falling asleep.
Four years ago I wrote the following about how bedtime was evolving:
I’ll carry my daughter upstairs and put her to bed. I’ll study her face for a minute after I lay her down, and brush the wisps of hair, which have curled up from the heat, off of her face. Even though she is asleep, I’ll pause at the bedroom door and say, ‘I love you.’ I think she can hear me in her dreams…
And after what seems like an eternity, the children will all be in bed. I will kiss them all, tuck them into bed, and sing “twinkle, twinkle little star” a few times. Like I have every night for the past ten years, and like I will for at least the next ten, or however long they will let me.
I’ll go downstairs and pick up the articles of clothing that have been discarded around the house and bring them to the laundry room. I’ll straighten up around the house and kick the random shoes into a pile before I flop onto the couch.
Children will come downstairs, in turn, needing water, to use the preferred downstairs bathroom, get a hug, get a toy that has been forgotten, or just tell me something of earth shattering importance that has been forgotten until that moment. After several rounds of this I’ll tell them that I am off duty and all further discussions will need to wait until morning. Someone will test this.
As I go to bed that night I’ll check in on my children, all finally asleep. I will marvel at how big they are sprawled across their beds. The sight of their scraped knees and bruised shins will make me smile, because it will mean they were having fun playing outside. I’ll see their sunkissed cheeks and the freckles across their noses. I can almost see the young man that my eldest son will grow into, his bed filled up with gangly arms and legs. I’ll pull the sheets up and cover them back up.
Before I leave their rooms and close their bedroom doors, I’ll pause for a moment to hear them softly breathe. Even though they are no longer babies, I still need to do this.
They don’t know I do this. They will have no memory of it. They wouldn’t understand anyway. Not until they have children of their own will they understand.
And days similar to this one will happen again and again. Another chance to do it better. Another chance to be the mother I long to be…
It has been years since my oldest sons were young enough for me to tuck them in and read them stories. Or sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Many nights now you will find me asleep before them. When did that all stop? One night did I just not sing as I paused in their doorway? Or did it happen gradually, skipping a night here and there until finally no one noticed a hole in the routine? Not even me? I don’t remember. What else have I forgotten, I wonder.
The other night, I was in my oldest son’s bedroom just talking with him about our plans for the next day, most of which involved me driving him all over hell’s half acre. As I was walking out of his bedroom he called to me.
“Mom, do you remember how you used to sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to us every night?”
“Of course I do.” And just to show how much I remembered it I sang the song, complete with dramatically blowing a kiss at the end. We both laughed. I felt a tug on my shirt. My four year old son was standing there, his arms crossed over his chest.
“Sing to ME!” he demanded.
He took me by my hand and brought me to his bedroom. I tucked him in and began singing. One by one his older siblings came running into the room. It grew louder and more raucous as they all joined in. My 4 yr old son lying in his gigantic bed smiling at each of us in turn. The blowing of kisses was louder than I remember, and there was more laughter than there ever was all those years ago that I now miss. Rather than running from the room and doing a silent fist pump in the air on the other side of the closed door, I lingered in the room.
Things may be very different now, but I realize that at the end of the day it is all about love, about cementing the connections that have been made during the day, about making each child feel special. These things don’t have to look a certain way. Life may be louder and appear more disorderly now than it did 10 years ago, but as I looked at my 4 yr in bed, surrounded by a roomful of people blowing kisses to him, I couldn’t help but feel that there could never be a child more cherished and loved.
So why am I writing about bedtime?
GoodNites is having a ‘Special Bedtime Moments’ contest for the chance to win one of two grand prizes of $2,500 for an all-star bedroom makeover. I really wish that I were eligible for a room makeover. Or, more accurately, my children wish that I were eligible to win a bedroom makeover for them. I will just have to live vicariously thorugh you.
· Step 1: Go to www.SpecialBedtimeMoments.com to enter.
· Step 2: Enter your e-mail address on the first page, then click continue
· Step 3: Enter your name, address, e-mail address, phone, etc. – then click continue
· Step 4: Enter your special bedtime moment (200 words or less, describe your bedtime moment, whether it’s a routine, tip or story, etc.) – BEFORE HITTING CONTINUE, COPY YOUR ENTRY AND PASTE IT IN THE COMMENTS OF THIS POST – then hit continue to submit your entry
That will enter YOU in 1). The contest for GoodNites to win one of two $2,500 bedroom makeovers and 2) The giveaway to win one of the three Bedtime Kits ($250 value!) Kits include the following:
o $100 gift certificate to PajamaGram.com
o $50 gift certificate to Borders
o Bedtime journal for recording special bedtime moments
o Overnight tote bag to hold all items mentioned above
You have until August 7 to enter – three winners will be chosen – two in July and one in August.
Disclaimer: I have partnered with GoodNites® for this series of posts; I am being compensated for writing about my family’s bedtime routine and for promoting this contest, not for endorsing a product.