When the kids were little we had a well-established routine of bath, brooks, and bedtime snuggles. As the kids have grown a little older this routine has changed, and I don’t think I like it.
The bath was a time when the whole family would hang out together in our little bathroom. At first it was about the experience of the water as it dibbled over little bellies and splashed between tiny toes and fingers. When the kids were bigger, toys added a whole new level of fun and siblings in the bath were hysterical.
But now the kids want privacy. They want to wash and get out so they can finish whatever they were doing in their room. Or they want to sit and soak in the water until it runs cold or their skin gets pruny. To be honest, some nights are so busy the bath has to be done quick if at all. There’s no more family time in the bathroom. It’s either utilitarian or exclusionary.
I understand this change. I know I relish those quiet moments in the tub when I can manage them. Why shouldn’t kids crave a similar escape? So perhaps this part of the routine I need to just let go but there are other bedtime rituals I struggle with seeing their end.
I love books, especially children’s books. I think if I didn’t have kids I would still read them. They can be fun and creative, take you on an adventure, or relate to an experience kids are going through at the moment. I love sharing these ideas with kids through reading on their own but also reading as a family. Reading before bed has always been a nice way to end the day, filling our heads with dreams and interesting characters.
But I have noticed many nights when this has been pushed aside, replaced by watching Youtube videos with their dad or playing in their room. Sometimes finding a story everyone want so hear lately has also proven challenging or even squeezing a book into our routine.
We seem to be doing a lot of squeezing lately, with homework and dinner and calls with friends. Reading together before bed seems to be suffering.
And if there’s little time for a bath and book, then snuggle time seems even less.
I can’t help but think that I’m partially to blame for the often rushed good night moments. My brain hears the clock ticking ahead, counting down the minutes until my bedtime, counting down the decreasing amount of time I have to myself. It feels a little selfish and I hate that I do it.
When my kids were little we would talk about random things and sing songs. Of course from one child to three, the nighttime routine slowly got shortened in order to fit some one-on-one time with each child but lately even this time seems to have suffered.
As my kids get older there’s this sense that I should actually be spending more time talking with them. Beyond what’s happening at school, this one-on-one time is ideal to talk about dreams and fears and feelings without siblings listening in and adding comments or dominating the conversation. There’s also some magical power about lying in bed. This act seems to bring up thoughts and ideas (and To-Do lists) that we inadvertently forgot or pushed to the back of the brain during the rush of the day. I’ve had this happen to me countless time so why should my kids be any different.
Instead I end up cutting things short, speeding things along so I can move on to my time.
“ I already sang your songs.”
“ That was your fifth goodnight kiss.”
“I don’t want to spend anymore time with you today.”
Okay, that last point isn’t something I’ve ever said but I sometimes imagine that’s what my kids hear when I rush through our bedtime routine.
Having my time isn’t selfish but somehow I need to find a better balance, I need to give in to each of my children’s need to connect with me, just me, as they end their day.
I know at some point my kids aren’t going to want hugs and kisses from me when they go to bed. I dread the day when they don’t want to share secrets and stories with me. They’ll sluff it off as something from childhood days and not part of their growing adulthood. Why give them the excuse to start moving down this path now?
Perhaps this change in routine is just part of growing up and adjusting to new stages that we all must work through, but it has me full of mixed emotions. I love seeing how my kids grow and develop more into themselves, though some parts of this phase I don’t treasure.
I can’t change or stop their growth (and really I don’t want to) but I don’t need to push them either. I think I need to start focusing more on our old routine, trying to get it back into place even if modified slightly. Perhaps the reason the kids have started to give in to the change, the lack of routine, is because they feel they should, that these behaviours are that of a child. Perhaps they think it’s something I want as I let it change, not fighting it, even pushing it. Maybe I need to make the first step to bring the routine back and see where it leads. Maybe the kids will follow.