Pre-kids the bedtime routine holds an illusion of peaceful bonding.
I imagined reading a story to my child by the soft glow of their bedside lamp, then tucking them in with a gentle kiss on their forehead. Retreating to the doorway, I would then watch them snuggle down into the covers, closing their eyes and drifting off into blissful sleep.
HA!! Oh the folly!!
Any seasoned parent knows the reality is far less whimsical.
Even once you survive the teeth brushing/toileting shenanigans and get them into bed, the struggle has only just begun.
I want water.
I spilt water on my pillow.
I want a teddy.
Not that teddy, a different teddy!
I need an extra blanket.
I need to poop.
You didn’t give me a proper kiss.
Teddy needs a kiss too.
Or my personal favourite, now that the kids are getting older…
I just remembered the (insert time-consuming project/costume/activity) I need for tomorrow morning.
The whole palaver drags on for ages and instead of gazing at my children wistfully from their doorways, most bedtimes end with me raging Enough! GOODNIGHT! and slamming the door.
There are many very valid reasons an infamous book written about the trials of bedtime includes an expletive.
Does this sound familiar?
According to sleep expert Katie Forsythe, even though most parents have some semblance of bedtime routine in place, we need to tighten it up.
She recommends the whole process should only take about 45 minutes to an 1 hour. That includes dinner, bath, books and any other wind down activities you have. I don’t know about you but that’s a tall order in my house!
I can see how streamlining the process would make things easier but it can be difficult in modern lifestyles where extra curricular activities and other commitments can mean that dinnertime is not always at a set time. For us, sometimes it is easier to do baths before dinner, sometimes after, and this variability can often lead to mayhem.
One thing I have found that works well is getting the kids to brush their teeth straight after dinner, regardless of how close it is to bedtime. This was way when we do get to bedtime it is one less thing for them to drag their feet about! It also stops any last minute snack requests.
I also try to be prepared for any other demands, especially from the 4 year old – a drink of water is already at the bedside, favourite teddy is on standby and the room is set up for optimal sleep conditions (blinds closed, night light on, a/c on if necessary).
While, we might not have a bedtime routine as tight as sleep experts would like, these little steps go along way to making the transition to bed a lot smoother.
What does bedtime look like at your place? Is it a tight routine or a little more fluid?