The steady needs of toddlerhood wore me down some days.
By 6 p.m., especially on nights my husband couldn’t be home, I would practice being patient in ten minute intervals.
Bed time could not come soon enough.
I wanted to rest from issues: picky eaters, listening to my daughter sob at the sight of shampoo, trying to be consistent with discipline. But our bedtime ritual took extra patience and intentional focus.
Sometimes I envied the moms who tucked their children into bed and walked out of the room. I maintained an elaborate, time-consuming bedtime ritual that took an hour. First we read stories, then I snuggled and prayed and gave back scratches, to each one. My husband sometimes popped his head in the room, wondering what I was still doing there. He gave his good night kisses long ago.
No matter how much I envied moms with quick bedtime rituals, I wouldn’t shorten mine. I was and am convinced that at the end of the day, my girls need this time where I focus only on them (no phone allowed). Holding tightly to the nightly ritual means a day almost never goes by when I haven’t given my girls at least 15 minutes each of 100% focused mommy time. The girls are 8 and 10 now and the ritual continues, slightly altered.
I hope and pray this routine will keep the doors of communication open for the entire time they remain in my direct care. The years ahead promise to be tough. But at the end of every day, the girls know they get my full attention.
The girls share a room. And sometimes they don’t want their sister to hear what they have to say. When privacy is necessary or just a nice change, we snuggle, one at a time in my room. Some nights we erupt with laughter until we cry. I resist the urge to run and find some electronic device to record the memory of laughter I don’t want to lose.
The bedtime ritual is where I learn about words at school that brought tears or about a secret worry held in too long or about a faith question that is bothering them. Always, we take it to God. My girls don’t always want to take things to God. Both have gone through awkward or questioning phases where they don’t want to pray with me. I let them listen while I pray for them, their friends, their struggles.
I’m modeling talking to God through all circumstances (aka prayer). On book club nights when I miss bedtime, I stay away long enough to make sure they are asleep or I sneak in the back door and into the basement. The break is good for me and them. If they hear me, they think they need snuggles ‘n prayers.
But I know that time off makes the ritual sweeter for us all.
I wonder, how and when do you connect with your kids?
Laura is a tea aficionado, a writer, and a grower of plants and girls. She and her husband live in Michigan where Laura homeschools ( a new adventure), writes and blogs at Pruning Princesses.