We recently asked our fabulous facebook community what you’d like to read from us and Kristal said “Bedtime routines, specifically for multiple kids of varying ages and stages without going nuts.” Welp, Kristal, this one’s for you though I can’t promise the without going nuts part.
5:32 Walk in the door. I like to rewind my getting to bed routine back to coming-home-having-dinner because it happens so fast you could miss it. We return home from our various jobs, after-school programs, and daycare between 5pm and 6pm. Ideally, I plant my children — age 19 months, 6, and nearly-8 — in front of a Curious George show (either one mini-episode for 12 minutes or two depending on the time I need to prep dinner).
Around 6:10, my big boys start their table-setting jobs and by 6:15, we’re eating. On a normal night — if there is such a thing — my husband gets home at 6:35 just as the first of us are finishing up. Sawyer is always done first; in fact, we’re lucky if he eats anything but that’s a story for another day. He is allowed to run around for a little while, literally, until I am ready to whisk him off to the next phase.
6:40 moving on. Depending on time available, level of dirtiness, and recency of last bath, I will bathe him or not. Regardless, he will ask for “BATH, BATH, BATH.”
If bath is a go, my toddler throws every toy in the tub as I strip him. I start washclothing as the tub fills. I begin draining the tub once it’s full. And I rarely wash his hair because Daddy does it. He hands me back the toys as the last water swirls away. Done. Sawyer will run around the downstairs in his towel while the other guys finish their food.
By now, it is 6:53. Sawyer and I will head upstairs saying ‘night ‘night to everything we see including the menagerie of animals in the neighbor’s backyard (when it’s time to wake up and return to breakfast, we get to say good morning to all the different items again). Once we make it upstairs, we might ‘night ‘night a few more toys. I find that it helps with his transition toward sleep to say these goodnights a la Goodnight Moon. There may be a song involved. I do what it takes.
I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of the neighbor’s backyard, the ever-changing scene is a constant source of delight to Sawyer.
Speaking of “whatever it takes,” all activities are intended mellow him out: he gets a fresh diaper with booty cream, pajamas, snuggling, 4 oz. milk, books, a huge yawn — I make sure to yawn until he does! — and a song. I hold firm at two books. Lately, I’ve been putting him to bed with a sippy cup of water in the crib (PRO: no more whining for water at night or in the morning; CON: must use the hard core diapers or he wakes up with wet pajamas!).
If all goes well, bed is between 7:00 and 7:15 for the little man. I pat his back as I tuck him in. If he’s happy, I leave him face down with butt in the air snuggled between two loveys by either cheek. If he’s in a bad mood, he may be standing and yelling as I leave the room (just keeping it real, people). I leave the dark room (AKA windowless closet nursery) while loudly shushing him and anyone else who might be within earshot.
Reasons he might be in a bad mood? I gave him the green water cup instead of the blue; I chose the books instead of letting him pick; I wouldn’t let him read while balancing on one foot on the glider ottoman; he’d rather stay awake and play; I sang the wrong song; or just “Daddy do it” on anything. He usually settles himself rather quickly once he realizes I mean business.
If he’s still fussing after 12 minutes, I’ll check on him and make sure he’s okay. That happens very seldom.
Meanwhile, the big kids start their bedtime responsibilities around 7:00. If Rookie Dad Alec is home, we play zone defense and he moves the older children along. They bathe or shower, pee, brush teeth, and read books until 7:40 then pee again. When their dawdling happens — and it does — it cuts into the book-reading time which they treasure. At 7:40, he leads a guided meditation in their beds to dial down the energy level even further.
At 7:45pm. It’s lights out for the big boys. Usually Daddy reads and tucks in the Bigs. When I’m doing their tuck-in, I remind them of their sleep rules. I’m pretty sure they keep whispering for a while afterward, but if that’s the worst that happens, I’m okay with that.
And if it’s just me? One or two nights a week, I’m on my own or vice versa. Most of the routine is the same with a few shortcuts: I skip baths if possible; the big boys finish eating on their own while I put Sawyer to bed; if they’ve cleared up the kitchen, I offer a tiny dessert.
Reasons I might be awakened at night? And our preventions.
- Potty accident. Big kids double-pee before bedtime to increase the likelihood of nighttime dryness. Little one gets super tough diapers.
- Water break. Big kids can get their own small cups in the night. Little one gets a sippy in the crib.
- Nightmares or night terrors. Not much we can do there. We give la pause when we can and rub backs as needed.
Phew. I get tired just thinking about it.
What does bedtime look like at your house?!