Whether it’s from being tired, sick, or sick and tired;
the kids do notice when you aren’t spending time with them before bed.
It all started innocently enough…we have 4 biological children and 1 sort of adopted college son. Our biological children are 11, 9, 7 and 18 months. We have lost two children to miscarriage and I have been on lifting restrictions and partial bed rest 3 times. I have had two surgeries, 1 of those major, and was very sick with undiagnosed thyroid problems. I have had plenty of excuses, I mean “reasons”, not to climb the stairs and help put the kids to bed. Trust me, I have. Then add in the couple of months during each of those pregnancies that I just felt bad during that first trimester. Then add those nights when I was huge from being pregnant and just “couldn’t” climb up the stairs to lie down with them and tuck them in. Keep adding the nights with a newborn in our bed and I was just too tired to do it and let my husband continue to put the other kids to bed by himself. And let’s not forget the nights that I went out with my friends, or was at a meeting and I wasn’t even there to do it. That can add up to a lot of nights….and missed opportunities.
I remember a lady named Sally from church telling me as a young mom…don’t rush the bedtime snuggles. I wish I had listened. I wish I had told someone before that I struggled with being there for the kids at night. I’m sure they would have reminded me what a special time of day that was and to not miss it. After a long day of homeschooling, feeding 6 or 7 people 3 meals and 3 snacks a day, doing countless loads of laundry, and trying to keep a clean house, I am just plain tired when night rolls around. Then add on top of that the time before I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism when I literally was out of breath from climbing the stairs so I stopped going up, and it became easy to just let hubby do it. I spent that time doing things that had to be done, like starting the dishwasher and watching tv with my pregnant, bloated feet up (me time, you know!). Those things were more important, right? Uh, no.
So what made me change? The kids. Kids are so understanding. Ours were so helpful all the time. They knew when I wasn’t feeling well and would offer to help, even from a young age. But over time, they simply responded to my not “being there” by just saying goodnight to me and saying casually to dad, “see you upstairs, Dad”. They stopped bothering trying to include me because I had, off and on, set the precedent that I wasn’t able to go up. Even after I had gotten my thyroid condition under control and could run up the stairs! It was obvious that they missed me and I missed them too, but they had kind of settled into our routine. Even though I still had things to do and felt that after my 13 hour shift, I should be able to “take a break” and let Dad do this job, I was missing out on the most important part of their day.
Bow time with our daughter (otherwise known as put every bow in each other’s hair!)
What did I really miss though? Well, I’ll never know. Those are the times of the day when the kids open up and just talk. And talk and talk LOL. But it is really the best time of day, if we let it be. Of course, bedtime consists of the routine things like baths, brushing of teeth, etc., but it’s really the time spent lying next to your loved one that shouldn’t be rushed. Reading one more book, praying with them, playing with their hair for one more minute, or listening to them describe their day even though it takes 10 more minutes. While we might be counting the minutes down to how long before that load of wet laundry sours in the washer, they are just glad to have our “undivided” attention at the end of their exciting day. When our college son lived with us for 2 years, I would love to hang out with him at the end of the day and just listen to him talk. Of course, it was easier then because our younger kids were already in bed. He would want to talk at midnight so I had to REALLY fight to stay awake by then! But having that time with him was priceless, and was over too soon. Now he’s in college and we don’t have those nightly talks unless he’s visiting us. One day, that will hold true for our younger children as well.
Boys shining their flashlights on us from their bunk beds (they like to think we don’t know they read Calvin & Hobbes when we leave.)
Giving goodnight kisses to baby brother
What are our kids missing out on when we don’t put them to bed? It’s easy to think nothing, especially as the kids get older and can “put” themselves to bed. But they do miss out on something big…you. You are the most important person in the world to them…right now. That might not always be the case. Look at your nightly routine in regard to your kids; are you involved? If you have a spouse, are they involved? While it can be tiring, it is really a blessing for all parents to be involved in the tucking in, the reading, the talking, etc. It’s an important time of day to be able to stop the distractions and just focus on these kids that we have been blessed with. We struggled with having the time for it because we were putting the baby to bed at 8 and then letting the kids go to bed by 9. However, then we were rushing those moments because it was late. Now, we put the baby to bed at 8 and the other 3 kids brush their teeth and all then too. I go and lie down and talk with the boys while hubby lies down and talks with our daughter. Then we switch. It has once again become treasured time for all of us and we are trying to slow the hands of time by having that time with them.
One last thought on this….after I had chosen to not let anything keep me from going up and helping put the kids to bed, I heard about a lady who was battling cancer. She was so sick that she could no longer make it up the stairs to tuck her kids in for bed. So she crawled up the stairs. Crawled. To do the one thing that I had many excuses not to do. Except I never had to crawl. I’m not sure I would have even thought to crawl. So I count myself lucky to be able to walk up to these four blessings and be able to enjoy them while I can, and I encourage you to do the same. You never know when you might not be able to.