Before my son was born, I didn’t really think too much about bedtime rituals. I had many friends who were already parents, and most of them were laissez-faire types, and their kids seemed good with that style. I just assumed my kid would be able to go with the flow. Well, you know what happens when you assume…by the time I went back to work, my son was about 6 months old, and I never slept through the night. Luckily I was able to find out that a huge part of why he never slept well was because he had food allergies. Even still, the next YEAR was rough for our sleep. I tried having him cry it out; I lasted 2 days. Next up, putting him to sleep while drowsy, nope, the screaming was the worst then. Eventually I gave in and rocked him to sleep, basically every night and every nap. At this point, when he was 2 years old, people started asking, “Oh, are you ready to have another yet?” Are you kidding me? I was still struggling with the multiple wake ups a night, and that was after the screaming and fighting to get him into bed. I contacted a sleep coach, who helped me try to better time my son’s naps and bedtime, but since I am a working mom, I had to depend on my mother and mother-in-law to do the heavy work of naptime, which to be fair, they did the best they could but didn’t always sync up. (My 2 year old would sometimes nap until 4pm!)
Yet, I felt guilty if I wasn’t home to do it, or if I asked my husband to do it (#workingmomguilt). It honestly wasn’t until this past December that I finally figured out what would be best for my son, who at this point was 3 1/2 years old and still in his crib. The big difference? He started preschool a few mornings a week, and since I almost never get to drop-off or pickup (more guilt) I made it a special point to ask him the same question every night, “What was your favorite part of the day?” At first his responses were brief, but as a teacher, I knew how to keep asking different leading questions and follow up questions to get him to open up more. Suddenly, after we had read 3-7 books and said good night to the grandparents and dad, my son and I would turn off the lights and sit in the rocking chair and talk about our favorite parts of the day. IT WAS AMAZING! This seriously changed the whole bedtime dynamic.
In addition to the question, which like his nightly bath and reading, is part of his routine, we have definitely moved to an earlier bedtime now that he no longer naps. Also, I will admit, that I’ve gotten better at reading the signs of tiredness before it becomes a full blown meltdown and exhaustion. I’m not saying every night goes down without a hitch, but I will say for some reason, this question allows my son the space he needs to digest his day.
How’s your bedtime routine? Did you have a pivot change for the better?