Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Bedtime Routine

Ah, the bedtime routine.  When Lilah was about four months old and were trying to encourage longer stretches of sleep at night, we concocted a bedtime routine.  We dreamed that this would one day become a sweet, soothing ritual between parents and daughter.  So far, we've got the "sweet" and the "ritual" parts down pat, but "soothing"... well, sometimes, maybe.  Our nightly routine goes a little something like this:

Around 6:45 pm, we brush Lilah's teeth, wash her face, and massage her tear ducts (she has one that is still blocked, and we have an upcoming appointment with an opthalmologist to investigate).  The success of these endeavors depends on her general mood and health, as well as whether or not she is teething.  Some days it is a full-on wrestling match.  The victor is very seldom the contender with the biggest muscles, but rather the one who is not afraid to use both volume and pitch to her full advantage.  Needless to say, I'm crossing my fingers that Lilah has inherited my strong, cavity-resistant tooth enamel.

Next come pajamas (another wrestling match, on some nights) and saying night-night to the kitties and Daddy.  By this point, she is often making the sign for "milk" and pointing to my boobs with increasing urgency.  So I whip her into the glider and she nurses.  This is often a serene bonding time for the two of us.  Occasionally, it can turn into our third wrestling match of the evening.  Sometimes we joke around and I tickle her or pretend to munch on her fingers and toes, but usually she just gets right to business and I rock back and forth on the glider, enjoying the closeness of her and relishing in the one time of day when she is stationary, which affords me the luxury of burying my nose in her hair and snuggling in tight.

When she is done nursing, Lilah usually pulls off abruptly, sits up, and starts chatting and wriggling as if she has ants in her diaper.  I have to quickly whip out a book to catch her attention before she launches herself off my lap, so I keep several bedtime-themed stories in the pocket of the glider for quick-draw action.  In the interest of keeping things completely routine and calming, I used to read the same two board books to her every night.  I was practically superstitious about it, like somehow if I switched up the books, the entire routine would fall to pieces and she would go on a sleep strike.  But I finally realized that there are only so many times you can read "Goodnight Moon" before you want to throw the "bowl of mush" at the "old lady whispering hush." Or something like that.

After two stories, it's time for me to sing to her.  Early on, I chose "Christopher Robin" as our bedtime song, mainly because it was what came to mind when I tried to think of a soothing, sleepy song.  I learned it at camp, so it brings back memories of campfires and marshmallows.  But now it has taken on a whole new meaning.  Some nights, I am totally on point, and I secretly fantasize that I am a Glee cast member, wowing my audience with my lullaby skills.  Those nights, I sing loud and proud.  Sometimes, Lilah, too, fancies herself a musical prodigy and I have some serious competition.  Other nights, my voice comes out all flat an nasal, and is barely louder than a whisper.  Those nights, I omit the vocal flourishes and extra choruses and just stick to the bare bones of the song.  You'll be shocked to hear that those nights often coincide with the multiple wrestling matches.
Lilah with her bunny at 10 months old
By the end of the soothing notes of  "Christopher Robin," Lilah is usually sucking her thumb and clutching her bunny lovey tightly.  That's when I whisper in her ear about what a sweet, special, little girl she is and how much Mummy and Daddy love her and how we will always love her, no matter what (ie. no matter how many wrestling matches she instigates).  Then it's time for her sleep sack. 
Conked out in her sleep sack at 11 months
At this point, I turn on her white noise, turn off her light, and rub her back.  She usually lays her little head on my shoulder, sucks her thumb and twirls a strand of my hair.  After a little snuggle time, I give her a kiss or two, lie her down in her crib, rub her back some more, give her butt a few pats, and tell her, "night-night."  I creep out of her room, taking one last look over my shoulder as I close her bedroom door.  Then I breathe.  Sometimes it's a sigh of relief.  After a tough day, it's nice to finally have some me time.  But more often than not, it's a sigh that expresses how full my heart is - of love, of life, and of, well, fullness.  Another day is done; a day full of the wonder and adventure and dramatic ups and downs that only a child can fully experience and appreciate.  And I'm left still wondering what hit me and where the day went.  My little whirling dervish is down for the count, and a few hours later, I will be too.

Of course, I almost always find some excuse to sneak into her room, stroke her little blonde head, and put my hand against her back to feel her even, rhythmic breathing at least once more before I head off to bed myself...


  1. Love the night-time routine. It has some kind of pavlovian effect on Theo. Once he's out of the bath and in PJs, he grabs his blanket and rubs his eyes almost on cue. We don't even read him a book anymore. He's just so baked by bedtime. Nap-resistance helps!

  2. You're making me miss nursing! What a sweet nighttime routine. That's so sweet that she twirls her hair. How does "Christopher Robin" go? Is that the Winnie the Poo song? Does it start "Deep in the hundred acre woods?" because I used to sing that particular song obsessively when I was three.

    Anyway, I digress, it sounds like a really nice routine. I remember using sound machines with Ari too!

  3. I think it's also called "The House at Pooh Corner." Here's a link to the lyrics:

    The white noise REALLY helps, since our apartment isn't so big and Lilah's bedroom is right next to the living room, where we spend most of our time.


Comments: I love 'em. Tell me what you think!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...