dressed up like a lady: Bedtime is the best time

Mar 19, 2014

Bedtime is the best time

Bedtime is so dang special. For the 22 minutes that we watch an episode of Adam West Batman or Garfield and Friends or something, I'm usually up and down, doing laundry and taking things out of the oven and stuff, but as soon as the show ends and one of us says "Time for bed!" I get the warmest feeling. Gbear is about to grab us by the hands and dance up the stairs. She's about to make up songs about socks and underwear as we hastily throw together a weather appropriate combination of clothes for her the next day, and attempt futily to "hide" behind the door of the bathroom before a parent can enter it, in the hopes of yelling "BOO!" to serious effect. 

I'm about to make her sock creature Zarzak deny fervently that he's secretly eating the shea butter we put on her eczema and then fall asleep on her head. She's about to negotiate for extra "lay with me time" (which is always funny, because she passes out before it ever expires), and then I'm either about to lay there with her and answer 15 solid minutes of questions about how to understand other people's feelings, what it means to be brave, how music works, how to handle feeling weird about picking people to play with at recess, how our soul grows as we get older. Or alternatively, daddy's about to sing a medley of lullabies (he is WAY better at making actual sleep happen). And for the 10 minutes it takes her to fall asleep once she's stopped talking, one of us will get to lay there and cuddle with her. I get to feel her little fingers curled around my hands as I plant a few sleepy kisses on her forehead and say "I love you, baby. You're the best girl in the whole world." The whole thing lasts about 40 minutes (or 20 for MC -- damn he's good!) from Batman credits to tiptoeing out of the room. But it's such a special half hour.

But of course, whichever one of us is tackling bedtime also has to constantly strive to facilitate actual progress during all this. We don't always have time for a story, and there's tons of "Yes, that's very funny," "You'll have to look for that tomorrow," and "Ask after you're done brushing your teeth." We feel such awe at how joyous and affectionate Gbear is, and yeah, it's hard having to mind practical business during a nightly ritual in which our particularly lovey dovey girl gets extra, extra affectionate.

But I guess it's not that bad from her end. I say this because last night, I was hurrying her as she zoned out brushing her teeth, washing her hands, even taking off her sock, and after that last one, she looked up at me and said "I love bedtime."

I chuckled a little, "You like me hustling you along?"

To which Gbear replied "But you do that because I'm important."

Seven years old, you guys. I don't know if I had that kind of emotional intelligence in my teens! My mom (the family therapist) always said kids feel happiest and safest when they're given two things: 1) Praise, love, & affection, and 2) Structure. She always said "Kids feel for structure and boundaries with their hearts as if those were their parents' encircling arms. Without them, they feel lonely, frustrated and scared. With them they feel loved and important."

It's possible that my mom was onto something. Or Gbear is just the best kid in the world. Or both.


  1. D'awwwww. That is a definite 'd'awwwww'-needing moment right there.

    Structure is so so SO important. Having a beditme at about the same time every night, knowing they have dinner at THIS time, knowing that doing THIS thing is off-limits no matter what, all that stuff is just what reminds kids that their parents care enough to worry about them. My mother always had dinner ready around 6 pm every night, and until we were old enough to have lots of after-school activities we were expected to BE THERE. And there really was something to the "we are all here as a family,e ven if only for forty minutes while we eat dinner and talk about the day". Especially as a kid much younger than my siblings... I might have never really gotten more than a glance at them during the day otherwise. And ESPECIALLY with a farmer-dad. Spring and fall might mean that dinner-hour was the only time I saw him at all, since he'd be out the door before I woke up and in the fields until after my bedtime.

    This was such a sweet read. Gbear is such an awesome little girl.

    1. Thank you so much for this response, Katie! My dad was (and is) a maintenance man at our local hospital, so he's worked from 4-midnight my whole life. So similarly, the structures my family created to ensure kids got what they needed was super necessary. Isn't it crazy looking back and suddenly realizing you've got an adult perspective on how important something was to your development? Anyway, I can't wait to read your own reflective (and perfectly sardonic) posts about parenthood. :)

  2. This is lovely. Bedtime truly is one of the best times.

    1. Thanks, Coribeth. I knew you'd totally get what I was talking about. :)

  3. When I was getting ready to go back to work after having my baby I was really sad about the fact that, at least while she's still little, a big chunk of our time together on weekdays would be taken up by the morning getting ready and evening bedtime routines. I thought that it would feel like a chore to both of us and take away from more meaningful play time. Now that I've been back at work long enough that our morning and evening routines are somewhat settled, I'm realizing that they are, indeed, the best times! Bedtime is especially delightful. It has been even better for bonding than long weekend days when we can do anything we want. I'm trying to balance enjoying playing in the bath and reading books and cuddling with providing the necessary structure -- baby girl has to go to sleep at a certain time, or else she will be grumpy. As with everything, it's a learning process.

    I loved getting a peek into your family's bedtime routine. It made me really excited about the little girl days ahead of me.

    1. You're the sweetest, Sandy, thank you for this comment. And yeah, isn't it weird how the vibe can actually be great with kids when there are time restrictions and tight schedules and things to get done? I wonder if it's just the basic principle that our hearts and brains seem to wake up and stay in the moment when there's stuff actually going on. That seems pretty natural for humans, seeing as how for most of history, we've had a lot to do, running from bears and tilling fields and stuff.

      I don't have to worry about bears, but I do have way more energy to clean the floor or rip down wallpaper if I've already spent the day pulling weeds or baking pies or something -- if I've spent the day doing nothing, I just fee; lazy and won't want to do anything.

      Similarly, Gbear is remarkably happier and more energetic and focused when there are general boundaries surrounding whatever's going on, like limiting TV to one episode, or offering her two choices when she's hungry instead of just telling her to look in the fridge. I guess maybe that child psych principle my mom talked about is true for kids and parents alike -- we're all looking for boundaries to make us feel safe and contained, which generally helps us stay in a positive frame of mind. And in that sense, hopefully what our little girls are doing right this minute is learning from the structures we provide for them now, how to create that sense for themselves one day. :)


Leave a comment. It's good for our relationship.