I could hear my brother guffawing from the other room. I giggled from my own room in anticipation, because I was next. The loving, the mundane, the silly and yet completely customized bedtime routine my mom created for me and my brother was at once what we demanded from her but also what she longed for as well.
No one else in the world understood it. It became our family ritual and vernacular that only my brother and I shared with her. It started with a tickle, then an especially goofy raspberry in each of our ears, finishing with exactly two hugs and kisses while reciting, “Hug, kiss, hug, kiss.”
Many a mom blogger (including me) laments about the dreaded nighttime routine: The procrastination tactics (“You really need to pee again, Timmy?”), the endless bedtime stories and songs, and the antsiness of not knowing if an actual adult nighttime was going to occur that night before submitting to our fast and furious slumbers in our own or our child’s bed. No “Orange Is the New Black” for you tonight, tired mama!
There is even a viral video (and book) of a very subdued and sober-sounding Samuel L. Jackson spoofing on rhyming bedtime stories a la “Goodnight Moon” and “I Love You to the Moon and Back” called “Go the F**k to Sleep.” While controversial, and even shocking for some, there was a collective laugh-out-loud moment from moms all over the world when the book was published. Finally, we knew we were not alone in the frustrations of putting our children to bed.
From the moment our first daughter was born, my husband and I felt it was important to create rituals around certain activities, namely, the nightly bedtime routine. We read books to our babies nightly from infancy on, and we credit this with their love of reading and words. We laugh now at a video we once took of our then nighttime routine, which took roughly 90 minutes (!) and included five books, 10 songs, cradling, and swaddling. Even their devoted grandparents yawned while watching the playback of this and asked to fast-forward it.
Yes, it was that long and agonizing.
While our kids are now old enough to put themselves to bed (for the most part), we all take comfort in the vestiges of those once-beloved and reviled nighttime rituals.
One of our daughters still sleeps with her blankie from infancy and pulls on its ears as a way to self-soothe and fall asleep. (I’ve had to sew the ears back on several times)
The heart-warming song (for the 5 and under crowd), “You Are My Sunshine,” which we performed nightly for years, has now devolved into a snarky, dark, and even loud version that makes the girls giggle every time.
The cribs turned to toddler beds. The toddler beds turned into trundle beds. And the trundle beds turn into twins, then bunk beds, then queens.
The books evolve too. From board books to picture books to chapter books. From us reading to them to them reading to us — to them wanting to be alone reading on their own.
Everything is as it should be.
And as difficult as it’s been over the years to get our girls to bed, on their own, and in their own beds for the whole night, and even though the bedtime has become later and later, I know the routine matters.
In the same way I lovingly recall the safety, comfort, and consistency of my mom’s unique bedtime routine, I know I’m imparting a little piece of love for them each night that will help them feel secure and comforted as they drift into their nocturnal playdate in their dreams.
I’ve even shared and tried to reenact my mom’s routine onto them as of late, thereby imparting to them a piece of family history which, much like a cherished piece of jewelry or your bubbe’s famous chicken noodle soup, will forever be received and remembered as pure love.
This is why it matters, and this is why it’s worth it.