The bedtime routine

My bedtime routine with my son, Andrew – pictured here at age 3.

When I was ten years old, my sisters were born.   Yes, sisters.  Twins to be exact.   Identical.  Well, technically fraternal but to a ten-year old boy, baby girls all looked the same to me.   I certainly couldn’t tell them apart.  Apparently the nurses couldn’t either since they had some sort of tag on their ankle with their name on it.  I was relieved to learn it was merely a name tag.  For a brief moment I thought they may have committed a heinous crime in the womb.  To complicate the issue – my parents decided that giving them rhyming names would be a good idea.  Christina & Bettina.   Who rhymes their children’s names?   They looked alike.  They had matching ankle bracelets.  And now their names sound alike.

When they came home from the hospital, I learned a few things about babies.  For starters, they cry a lot.  They also eat all the time.   And time means nothing to them.   Unfortunately for me, I learned all of these lessons about babies – at the same time every night – around 3am.   Unable to sleep and seeing my Mom struggle with two babies at the same time – I decided to help with the middle of the night feeding.  Armed with a bottle, a blanket and a rocking chair – I learned how to bottle feed a baby.  I’m pretty sure I was the only ten-year old boy doing this.   It is certainly not how I thought I would spend my 5th & 6th grade year.   The truth is, I enjoyed the time with my Mom and bonding with my sisters in this way.   It also laid the foundation to the beginnings of a bedtime routine.

As they got older and were able to communicate in something other than a cry, they would often ask if I would “put them to bed.”  In other words, tuck them in, read them a bedtime story, sing a song.    I’m pretty sure I was the only 14-year-old boy doing this.   The tucking in and reading part was easy.   They had 2 or 3 books they wanted me to read and I would read them with animated enthusiasm.  When it came to the song to sing – I balked.  For one, I didn’t like to sing – especially in “public.”  Secondly, I didn’t know any songs that were appropriate to sing to little girls.   For weeks I would merely tuck them in and read.  Every night they would ask for a song and every night I had to decline since my taste in music at the time was hardly appropriate for me, let alone 4-year-old girls.  Besides, something told me that singing “No sleep till Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys was not what they had in mind.

Finally, it hit me.  I did know a song that fit the bedtime criteria, mainly one where I knew all the words and it wasn’t inappropriate rap.  So, the next night, I tried it out on my eager audience.  Surprisingly, it was a hit and from that night on – for as long as I tucked my sisters in – I sang this familiar song by Kenny Rogers:

  • “On a warm summer’s eve, on a train bound for nowhere
  • I met up with the Gambler, we were both too tired to sleep. 
  • So, we took turns a staring out the window in the darkness
  • till boredom overtook us, he began to speak…”

For the sake of time and blog space, I’ll let you finish the song in your head.  Granted, it is the weirdest bedtime lullaby one could sing to small children.  But for me, it worked and my audience was happy.

Years later, we joke about it at family gatherings.  To this day, when that song is played on the radio or mentioned, we think back to that precious time with fond memories.  If Kenny Rogers only knew…

Now that I have kids of my own who are at various stages of the bedtime routine, I’m glad Kenny Rogers isn’t a part of it.  I’d like to think I matured a bit and offer my children more than what my sisters were given.  Books were always a part of the bedtime routine.  My song selection has gone from country to Christian in genre.  And we always say our prayers.

The other night, my six-year-old asked if I would put him to bed.  That means we read  1-2 books, say our prayers and I sing him a song or two.  His song request that night was, “God will make a way”.   In light of my tumultuous life over the last three  years, it was a good reminder to me:

  • “God will make a way were there seems to be no way
  • He works in ways we cannot see – He will make a way for me.
  • He will be my guide – hold me closely to His side
  • With love and strength for each new day – He will make a way.
  • God will make a way.”

A simple song reminding us that God can do something positive out of the mistakes we often make in the course of a day.   Sorry Kenny, but it seems to be a much better way to end a child’s day than card gambling tips such as “knowing when to hold em and fold em, knowing when to walk away – knowing when to run.”

Goodnight y’all.    Enjoy your bedtime routine…


6/2/2012: I read this funny, oh-so-true blog about bedtime routines and thought it deserved a mention here: