Our bedtime routine starts at roughly 6:30.
It starts with firing up the “Clean Up Songs” playlist on Spotify. The air fills with the sweet sounds of Super Simple Songs and Pink Fong as we start to gather up the day’s toys. The whole process takes much longer than it would if we just cleaned up ourselves, but we’re doing our best to teach the fellas a little responsibility.
After the downstairs is relatively cleaned up, it’s time for a pre-bedtime snack, usually yogurt. Generally, we watch a few songs on YouTube. One of the recent favorites is a mashup of dance scenes from classic movies synced up to “Uptown Funk”
Then it’s up the stairs for bath time. As we have one twin potty training and the other who has no interest, that means one toddler pees on the potty and the other will probably just pee in the tub. We scrub the little guys from head to toe, lotion them up and wriggle their squirmy little bodies into their pajamas. After drinking a glass of water and brushing their teeth, they head into the first bedroom.
We read two stories each night. Most nights, choosing the books can take just as long or longer than it actually takes to read the stories.
It’s officially time for the first one to get into bed. I use my hands to muffle my voice like a gate agent giving directions over the airport PA system. “Please report to the hopping corner!” We bounce around the room, pausing only to flip upside down and give Mommy a “Spiderman Kiss” before laying him down in the bed.
I sing three songs with my son. None of them are traditional lullabies. I prefer to sing him a ballad of punk rock songs from the late 90’s and early 2000’s as well as the theme song to Joss’s Whedon’s sci-fi masterpiece, “Firefly.”
Following his songs, we have to do an inventory of his stuffed animals. I kiss him goodnight and tell him that I love him. By this point, my portion of his bedtime ritual is done. It’s now Mommy’s turn to step in and tuck him in and sing his two Mommy songs.
Then my other son and I head to the bathroom for a final potty trip. This means he needs to get his stool so he can turn on the three lights. I half strip him out of his pajamas so he can do his business. When that transaction is complete and the toilet has been flushed, we sit and wait patiently for the bowl to refill. I’m not quite sure why, but I can only assume there is some sort of contemplative meditation process that happens during this time. Back up on the stool to wash hands, which can take anywhere for 15 seconds to 15 minutes, off the stool to dry his hands and back up on the stool again to turn off all the bathroom lights.
Now that the bathroom trip is complete, we reconvene with Mommy. She picks him up so he can turn off the hallway light and then the flick the light switch on and off in his bedroom. After his four bedtime songs from Daddy, it’s time for him to report to the hopping corner. We bounce around the room and Mommy gets her “Spiderman Kiss.”
After a Superman flight around the room, I drop him gently in his bed. Like his brother, we go through a checklist of the half dozen stuffed animals that currently reside in his bed. I give him a kiss and move aside for Mommy to sing her two songs as she tucks him in.
The last thing we have to do before he falls asleep is check the glowing face on my watch. When he is satisfied that he has wasted enough time, he finally says goodnight.
My wife and I slip out of the room at just shy of 8 o’clock knowing that there is a good chance that at least one of our children will require an encore performance of their lullabies. There’s probably a good chance that there will be a trip to the potty, a parched voice crying out for a glass of water or a nose that needs a tissue.
It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating. Night after night we go through the same routine. I know there will be someone out there reading this, judging us for the ridiculousness of our routine. There will someone out there thinking that we should put our foot down. That we should limit our children to one story and one song and if that’s not enough, just let them cry it out. They wonder why we would do this to ourselves.
While we do it because a lot of parenting is about survival and this is the path of least resistance and the least amount of tantrums, we also do it because there will be a day when they won’t need us to do it. There will be a day when they won’t want us to be part of their bedtime routine. There will be a time without cuddles and stories. There will be a time when they’re too big to hop to bed. There will be a time without lullabies and “Spiderman Kisses.”
That day is not today. And until that day comes, we’re going to embrace every opportunity we can to hold onto these little moments. Because when they are gone, they’re gone forever.