A slightly above-average achiever's guide to parenting
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January 17, 2018
Want to hear a depressing calculation. Chewie turned four in December (that's not the depressing part). To make the math easy, if I say he's gone to sleep 365 times times over 4 years that means I've put him to bed over 1500 times. Now, I'm not doubling or tripling the naps only because Chewie's dad and I pretty solidly share the bedtime duty. But I think it's fair to say I have put that kid to sleep a substantial amount of times. And while I'm not officially an "expert" yet (apparently that takes 10,000 times, to which I say "heaven help me 10,000 bedtimes....") I have learned a thing or two about making bedtime more sane for myself and Chewie. So, in an interest of sharing knowledge, here are my best bedtime hacks:
As for putting down Baby French Fry, that one is still a gong show, so I have no advice for a 1.5 year old, other than divide and conquer if you can. But I figure he’ll be old enough eventually for these hacks. Probably right around when Chewie figures out I’m not creeping back into his room when he’s asleep… Happy rest everyone!
Races for everything: I don't know if this is the best or worst idea of all time, but we compete for a lot of things in our house. Like "who can put on their PJs the fastest?" or “who can make the most bubbles” for handwashing or my favorite “show me the grossest face you can make when you take your medicine”, but it can apply to a lot of things where you want to motivate your kids when they're dragging their feet. It’s a great way to turn things into a game, particularly when it’s something they don’t want to do. You can imagine how this speeds up our bedtime routine. We use it between siblings (because we're apparently hardcore like that) but you can also do this for solo kids by timing them and trying to beat their time from the night before. Warning: do not play this game with "who can pee the fastest?" unless you want to suffer the consequences of pee all over your bathroom.
I'll give you a hug and a kiss once you fall asleep: Chewie has yet to figure this out, and I don’t know what part of his brain thinks this is a good idea, but once we’re done with all the stories, all the books, and all the snuggles, I tell him that I will give him a hug and a kiss and an extra long snuggle once he falls asleep. I then hug and kiss him and tell him I love him and I’ll see him once he’s sleeping. It will be a sad day when he realizes that I’m not actually coming back into his bedroom when he’s asleep but in reality am re-watching Parks and Rec. But for now, it’s serving as a really helpful “escape hatch” for when I’ve snuggled him beyond my capacity for patience.
Child's pose: Most bedtimes for us work like this- I’m loving playing with them, I’m having a blast reading stories, singing songs, and telling stories. And then, it starts to drag on, and on, and on, and I start to resent the whole process. And I think about all of the things I need to do next (cleaning, work, watching Parks and Rec, talking to my spouse), and then I start to get antsy and want to get out of there. What can I say, I’m a bad mom. So, to make me a little more patient, when I’m doing the final part of bedtime (which for us is a little snuggling) I’ve been climbing into Chewie’s bed and going into the yoga pose child’s pose. At first this was out of necessity because he’s still in a teeny bed and I am a 5 foot 9 adult human, so I needed to scrunch up small to fit. But I realized that as I stayed in that pose, it was helping stretch out my back, helping me unwind a little bit and on good days, even meditate a bit. It helps me really enjoy those last moments of the day with him. So, if your kids need more of your time and closeness, but you just CAN’T anymore, give child’s pose a try.
Foot Massage: This one I have to credit our babysitter for. She mentioned that it was something that calmed her down before bedtime, but turns out, if Chewie is amped up and really restless (particularly where he’s overtired), if I give him a foot massage (or mussugahhasehse as he calls it…he really just mumbles the words), it mellows him out like flipping a baby shark over on its back. Instant sleep. It doesn’t work every time, but if you are in a battle of wills at bedtime, it’s worth trying a foot massage before bed (unless you’re creeped out by feet).
And the weirdest thing ever- a potato: This one is courtesy of my first generation American friend who’s Russian mother used to tell her when she was scared of monsters and scary things in the night, she would put a magic potato outside her door that would stop the bad things from coming into her room. When the potato inevitably sprouted after a few weeks, her mom said that was proof that it was doing its job, sucking up bad guys. I have yet to try this one, but there’s a brilliant logic to it. Plus, what kid would fight that idea? Although I’m not sure if it’s particularly wise to play into children’s phobias and fears in acknowledging monsters. But if you’ve got a kid with an active imagination, I don’t think any amount of “monsters aren’t real” will help.