My two-year-old daughter was recently at the doctor for a checkup, and it came up that we lay down with her each night until she falls asleep. Her physician – with the best of intentions, started talking about some tips to get her to go to sleep on her own and commented that we wouldn’t want to do this much longer. I probably made a funny face because he paused, and I told him that we do the same with our six-year-old. He chuckled, and we moved onto something else. But it got me thinking – what are we doing and how did we get here with our bedtime routine?
It was not intentional
I never meant for this to be our bedtime routine. It just sort of happened. My son was not a good sleeper as a baby, and he was 3 ½ before our daughter was born. So we had years to cater to him and did what we needed to do to get enough rest. It just became our normal.
I remember babysitting at the age of 12 and putting our neighbor’s three young kids to bed after a short story and turning off the lights. It probably took 10 minutes tops and what I always considered “normal”. But as a mom in her 30s, it takes an hour or more to put my own kids to bed. Not sure if I should laugh or cry – probably a bit of both.
It (generally) works for us
Laying down with your children fits within the attachment-style parenting philosophy, which says that young children learn to trust and thrive when their needs are continually being met early in life. While I don’t think we necessarily fit into one parenting-style “box,” we’ve also benefited from baby-wearing and more positive forms of discipline. These things just feel more natural as we’re winging this whole parenthood thing.
Did we just get into a bad habit? I know some would say yes. And I definitely feel this way sometimes. But I also feel good about following our gut here vs. what society or even our pediatrician may think is ideal.
I get more out of it than they do
When my Kindergartner gets off the bus, I always ask about his day. He may tell me about a book they read or a joke a friend said at lunch. But there’s something about the lights going off that brings a different level of conversation. When I lay in bed with him, we tell stories. I hear about things he may be worried about. If a classmate said something mean, this is when it comes out. This is the time we bond the most and is often the best part of my day.
Would we end up having these conversations at another time if this wasn’t our bedtime routine? It’s certainly possible. But I think our current routine gives us the opportunity each day to truly pause and check in with our kids. I hope it’s helping us to set a foundation for talking about the harder stuff as they get older.
Like all things, it’s not forever
I know as they get older, they’ll need us less and less. Someday, it’ll be the last day. They’ll say goodnight, close the door and won’t need us there. We certainly won’t be snuggling next to them in their college dorm room. Right?!