Racheting Down a Bedtime Routine

This post will be randomly interspersed of pictures of me, Christian, and Ellen looking at art in Culver City last week.

Have I not yet recommended you read Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Sharifa Oppenheimer? It is a excellent parenting resource and I recommend it HIGHLY.

It is the book that we are reading book club-style in my Waldorf in the Woods playgroup (one chapter a week).

Not only do I think it’s done more to deepen the level of understanding of how we want to parent in our group than any other single event or action I’ve taken, but I actually think it is meaningfully changing all our lives.

Take, for instance, the chapter on rhythm, “The World of Rhythm.”

“Rhythm is the magic word for parents and educators of young children. Young children thrive on a simple, flexible rhythm that carries them through their day, through each week, and through the slowly unfolding years of their lives. Rhythm lays a strong foundation, not only in our children’s lives but also in our own. We humans have been shaped over the millennia by the rhythmic rotation of the earth, by the diurnal dance of day and night…

Our children, who live closer to basics than we do, are profoundly affected by the life rhythms we determine for them. Many problems we experience with our children can be addressed by setting a simple daily rhythm that allows their needs to be met in a timely way.” [italics mine]

I am convinced that the last sentence in that quote is absolutely correct.

Inspired by it, I decided to tighten up our bedtime routine. I mean, we all have some semblance of routine at night – but ours was loose, very loose. Meaning, sometimes, instead of turning off the light to nurse him down, I would keep the light on so I could read my book, while Christian nursed. It seemed to me that whether or not the light was on or off made little difference to Christian, who sometimes fell asleep nursing while I tap out one-handed email responses on my laptop. Sometimes we bathed early and sometimes late. I had half-heartedly started a candle lighting routine, but then stopped because I was waiting to learn that perfect candle-lighting song. Our bedtime routine never seemed to be a problem, because Christian didn’t seem to have THAT much difficulty going to sleep, especially if he’d had enough outdoors playtime that day.

Then we started having trouble putting Christian to bed. Sometimes it would take me several hours to get him asleep. SEVERAL HOURS. Not okay in my book, because not only didn’t I feel irritable in general and specifically towards Christian, but also, Christina seemed to want to be asleep – and he just couldn’t get there.

So, I drafted a very specific bedtime routine (in my head) and put it into effect ten days ago.

It was like magic. And the first night it wasn’t even a routine yet, so how could it be so wildly successful?!? But there you were – the first night, and every subsequent night, Christian has fallen asleep on schedule, in about a half hour of starting the bedtime routine. (Well, the last nights it has been a bit longer, but nothing like the nightmares we were dealing with the previous week.)

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