When it comes to bedtime routines with children, every parent has their own opinion. Some are on the go and a strict bedtime routine isn’t part of their day, and others see it as a sacred ritual. For two of the co-creators of Harry Pierre & PeTunia, they were in each of those categories!
I was in the latter category. From the day I brought them home from the hospital, I looked at their schedule and the bedtime routine as a strict ritual. If we went out, we had to be home by 7:15 P.M. If my two daughters were heavily involved in play, I would set the kitchen stove timer for five-minutes, and when the buzzer sounded, it was time to put away the toys, and take a bath. After bath, and brushing and flossing teeth-time, we would put on their choice of two pajamas. One daughter had a favorite nightgown she wore to threads, and would then move on to the next nightgown which she wore to threads, as well, but the other liked choices, and isn’t that the norm with children – being totally different from one another? After bathing, we would go downstairs to sip a very small cup of less-than-hot-decaf tea with milk, rock in a rocking chair, and return to bed to read our favorite story – okay, two or three times reading the favorite story. And I quickly learned that the way I read the stories and poems was much different than how my husband read it to them. Because one daughter loved the extra words and silly phrases he would interject, while other one would come to me crying that Daddy didn’t read it right!
After the bed-time story, we said our prayers:
“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
May Angels watch me through the night, and wake me in the morning’s light.”
Then they would say their little blessings for their family, and their dogs, of course, and toys sometimes, and once in bed and snuggled in well, we would end it with:
“Goodnight, sleep tight, and our love will carry us to the morning light.”
They got a goodnight hug and kiss, and then I would stand by the door of my youngest daughter because I knew I would be called in for just “one more kiss!” This would be between 8:15 - 8:45 P.M., and then my husband and I would have the remainder of the evening alone.
The other co-creator of Harry Pierre & PeTunia, Gladys Vargas-Ruiz, on the other hand, having three sons and then a daughter, got tickled with my schedule because where I looked at bath-time as a scheduled ritual; she and her husband worked their children in and out of the shower like speeding bullets! She was a very busy lady, on the go all the time, and according to her there were times where some of their bedtime routine was done on the way home. She, as well, loved reading to her children so I’m sure she read bedtime stories, but the question remains, “Where did she read them at?” :) She also had special bedtime prayers, too. One of her bedtime must-haves was for all her children to tell each other "goodnight" before crawling into bed. She laughed when she heard I rocked my daughters until their legs entwined with mine. I didn’t bother telling her how devastated I was when my oldest untangled her legs and firmly, but compassionately, said around ten-years-old, “Mom, I think I’m too old for this.” Oh, my stomach pangs thinking of her walking away that evening!
Her children, like mine, have fond memories of all they did at bedtime. Were our routines as different as day and night? Yes, but what worked for me, would not have worked for her, but she devised one that worked splendidly for her and her family.
We both believe the most important thing about a bedtime routine is spending time with your children – regardless of how you do it – and putting them to bed at a decent hour so they get plenty of sleep, and finding a way to wind them down to feel happy and safe so they may sleep in peace and wake in joy.
Every parent and every child is different. What works for one doesn’t work for another, so if you are having difficulties at bedtime and it’s more like a battlefield instead of a tranquil experience, change it up a bit. Children really do work better with routines, so maybe you’re not structured enough and he/she needs more structure and longer sleeping hours. Maybe you have too much structure and not enough choices. Maybe you’re not giving them enough time to quiet down or trying to quiet them down too abruptly. Maybe you can add a little warm decaf tea with milk and a few minutes of rocking! Whatever you choose, be consistent.
Read to your child as long as you can. It’s such a special time for them. I’ve met families that as the children aged they went from picture books at bedtime to appropriate aged novels, reading a chapter a night, and did so until the children were in their very early teens.
Having children think they are the center of your world and making memories before they drift off to Sleepland could be one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.
We all learn from each other, so we invite you to share what works best for you and your family!