For many mothers, these words bring a mixture of joy and dread. Joy at the thought of a chance to sit down and rest, or possibly to do things they otherwise couldn’t do with little ones around. At the same time, many mothers dread bedtime because everyone seems so irritable and fussy at bedtime, yet somehow resistant to the whole idea of going to bed. For some families, bed time is a battleground.
Every family does bed time differently, and indeed some families don’t have a bed time at all for their children. We’re all different.
At the moment, I am loving bed times. But it hasn’t always been this way. My first child would sometimes take hours to settle. She could be nursing for hours, then stop, crawl around the bed, want another story, need another song… whatever– until she finally was able to go to sleep. I seemed to have no evening: her bed time became my bed time. If I went upstairs I knew that I would be unlikely to return downstairs that evening, so eventually I just put my jammies on and went to bed with her.
I can remember sometimes resenting the long, drawn-out process of putting the children to bed. I thought that the way to put a baby to bed (and I assumed that this is what everyone else did) was to lay the baby down in a crib, close the door and walk away. I wondered why my babies didn’t seem to do what other babies would do.
With time I began to see it from my child’s point of view, and my approach became more child-centred. I realised that it can be quite a lonely thing to try to get to sleep on your own (even as an adult when my husband goes away for work I struggle to drop off to sleep!). I recalled how much I loved crawling into bed with my own mother when I was little (one of my earliest memories), and what a treat it was to sleep with her when my dad went away ‘on business.’ I also came to see that for a small person it can be scary to be all alone in a darkened room. As my empathy for my child grew, my approach became slower. As I accepted her needs, I found myself willingly meeting them without resentment. Bed time became an opportunity for connection, rest and mutual enjoyment rather than a battleground.
These days my eldest )nearly 10!) kisses me goodnight and goes up to bed herself. I take my youngest (2 1/2) and my middle child (6) up to bed and we snuggle up in the double bed together. They each choose a story, which I read in turn, then we have a few songs, then the six year old goes up to her bunk and it’s time to be quiet while we wait for the sandman to come. Sure, it’s pretty involved. I don’t just kiss them goodnight and leave the room, leaving me free to get on with other things. But the allure of those ‘other things’ pales in comparison to what I receive instead. I get to wrap each of my little ones in my arms and smell the tops of their heads. I can feel their little legs moving as they try to get as close to me as possible. Their fluffy little-person hair tickles my chin, and the smooth, round pressure of their heads rest on my chest. I know they can hear the sound of my heartbeat and feel the rise and fall of my chest as I breathe. I can remember the rumble of my father’s voice when as a child I lay my ear on his chest as he read to me, and I know they can feel that too. It soothes them, and as they become calmer I do too. I drink them in and hold them close.
Bed time is a welcome oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic day. It is a time when nothing else takes precedence. It is time for my little ones and me. And when they are asleep, I gently extract myself from the bed and go in to see my eldest for an extra-long cuddle. Not because she needs it, but because I do.
Photocredit: Wikimedia Commons.
About Lisa Hassan Scott
Lisa Hassan Scott is a stay at home mother of three little ones, age 2, 6 and 9. An American living in Great Britain for over 15 years, Lisa is a Yoga teacher certified by the British Wheel of Yoga, and a La Leche League Leader. She blogs about mothering, breastfeeding, Yoga and the mind at http://www.lisahassanscott.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter: @lisahassanscott