I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not even the least bit structured. Having kids and having to try to provide them with a schedule has been so hard for me. Having a strict routine makes me feel like I’m locked in a cage– doing the same things over and over and over every day. It’s the worst. I just want the freedom to do whatever, whenever. But, as I quickly learned, “parenthood” and “freedom” don’t belong in the same sentence, and pretty soon I found myself planning nap times and timing nursing sessions and trying to fit my relaxed self into the little “perfect mom” box. But I just couldn’t ever seem to fit and the worst was the bedtime routine.
When my first was born and I became a mother the talk about bedtime routines was e v e r y w h e r e. “Make sure to establish a good bedtime routine!” “A good bedtime routine makes all the difference!” “Bedtime routine! Bedtime routine!” Bedtime.Routine. Well, it seemed like all the good moms were doing it so I jumped right onto the bedtime routine train and tried to give my baby the sleep and structure I thought she needed.
I gave that darn routine my all. We tried bath time, a relaxing baby massage, scriptures, songs, prayer, rock to sleep. That was too long. Then just songs, prayer, sleep. Too short. Some nights [read: most nights] I forgot to start the darn bedtime routine before the baby got way too tired and we had to skip straight to the end. And then the mom guilt would set in, why is my bedtime routine a bedtime circus? I don’t understand.
It was rough, and, after yet another night that ended in with me in a puddle of tears over our failed bedtime routine, I finally gave up on this notion of the perfect bedtime. It took me 2.5 years and 2 kids but something finally clicked. I am their mom. I am enough. Why am I trying to change who I am when all they really need is me? I don’t care what other moms do or how they put their kids to bed. All I can do is raise my babies the best way I know how.
“…I will never ever regret the nights my baby falls asleep holding my hand with a heart full of love and cheeks full of kisses.”
I’ve always been of the mindset that life is meant to be lived and experienced. I don’t think life was meant to be lived within the confines of a strict routine. So I took these feelings, this large part of who I am and how I view the world, and I applied it to my children’s bedtime routine. I didn’t want bedtime to become a routine, I didn’t want bedtime to be a strict order of events. I want bedtime to be my time to connect with them at the end of the day, to make sure they know I’m here and I love them. I want them to go to sleep every night with big hugs and kisses and knowing they are loved, they belong and their life has purpose. I want to get on their level, to make our little bedtime talks memories they will never forget.
So I have established a little routine of my own, something I do every single night even if I forget prayers or forget a story or even if the day was absolutely terrible. I hold them close and kiss their cheeks and I tell them “Thank you for spending today with me. I hope you know how much I love you and how grateful I am for you. I thank Heavenly Father every day for sending me such a kind, intelligent, amazing little child to raise. I love you and I can’t wait for tomorrow.” And sometimes we talk and sometimes we snuggle. And sometimes they try their hardest to get out of going to sleep, but you know what? The most important part of bedtime is that they know that they are important to me. The most important part of bedtime is taking the time to just be with them and to make sure that they fall asleep every night knowing their mom loves them.
Wanna guess how long this bedtime routine takes me? It takes as long as they need me, and maybe that doesn’t work for some people, but I will never ever regret the nights my baby falls asleep holding my hand with a heart full of love and cheeks full of kisses.