The Art of Sleep

Some nights putting our toddler to sleep feels like an artful endeavor. Or a surgical procedure. Or an Indiana Jones-style booby trapped pyramid.

If we can just choose the right combination of books, read in the right soothing tone, with the right length of pauses in between, the tiny King Kong jumping on his crib and hurling Boynton books onto my toes will transform into a sleeping cherub.

There were times with both girls when I stressed about the bedtime ritual. How could we improve it? How could we shorten it, while still comforting them and ending the day well?

Now, some days are so full, we all look forward to the quiet hour at the end. The dinner is finished. The house is clean (er). The jammies are on and the teeth are clean (er). The hair is brushed. And no one has anywhere else they need to be.

We take turns, Joe and I. One spends the hour reading (or dodging) books with Max. His favorite books continue to be Dooby Dooby Moo by Doreen Cronin and Llama Llama Misses Mama.

The other revisits chapter books long-forgotten in the girls’ room. The latest attempt was Little House on the Prairie, in honor of this week’s Pioneer Camp. But to be honest, that one has never caught my imagination. I blame myself for the girls’ lack of interest. We set it aside sometime after the third lengthy description of smoking meat for the winter. Bleck. Lately, we’re back to an old favorite: Buddha at Bedtime.

These twilight hours snuggled over books have been an evening staple so long, we too easily forget their significance. In between chapters, I am often asked the most unusual, and revealing, questions by Miss Just-Turned-8, giving me a glimpse into her inner workings. And Miss Perpetual-Motion-Machine finally slows down enough to settle into my lap. And Max? He sings, and wiggles his toes, and finally, as he’s about to fall asleep, pats me gently on the hand, or the shoulder, as if to say, “thanks mom.”

So yeah, though the days are long, the evenings short, and patience thin when we hear, “can I have one more apple, mom?” or “check on me in ten minutes!” for the five thousandth time, this book-based ritual brings us closer, and slows down busy days better, than anything else we do.

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