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I always see articles and columns in parenting magazines and websites about soothing bedtime rituals. I quit reading them because it's so ridiculous and anyone with more than one child knows this is true.
Create a calming routine, they say. Focus on quiet games and books and no rough housing at bedtime. Have a soothing bath and read quietly with your child to help ease them into sleep.
It really sounds wonderful, but it's just so un-doable.
That's not to say that when my children were babies we didn't try to get them into bedtime routines so as they got older they'd go to sleep at bedtime and wake up at a reasonable hour in the morning. Those routines did involve soothing baths and reading quietly. And, for the most part, we were pretty successful. We now have three children who usually stay asleep all night and don't get up at the crack of dawn. (And on the weekend, the 13-year-old usually sleeps well past the crack of noon.)
However, it's been several years, probably since our 5-year-old was 2 or 3, that there's anything calming about our bedtime routine.
When you don't get home from work until 6 and you have to cook and supervise homework and get kids to various sports practices, there just isn't time for calm and soothing. My goal is to get my youngest two in bed by 8:30 at the latest. If they've had a bath and brushed their teeth AND are in bed by 8:30, I consider it a success. But some nights, we aren't even eating dinner until 7. And forget the oldest one. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night to a noise (because moms are incredibly light sleepers) and am convinced someone has broken into our home only to discover that it's my 13-year-old in the kitchen whipping up a snack.
The other night after being woken at 12:30 a.m. by kitchen cupboards being slammed by my oldest, I had barely fallen back asleep when my 5-year-old came into my room at 1:30 a.m. crying because he had a nightmare. After several attempts to get him back to sleep in various places, he ended up in my bed and my husband ended up on the couch. Long story short, we were still up at 4 a.m. with my alarm set to go off at 5:30.
Right about now, calm and soothing sounds pretty good, but I have a pretty good idea that if I curled up in bed to read a book with my kids, I'd be asleep in about 30 seconds.
If you have any parenting topics you'd like me to touch on, feel free to comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter at @heatherrainone or follow my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HeatherCondleyRainoneRecordCourierManagingEditor