I am a professional mother in many ways. Here’s my best tips on how to successfully put your child to sleep for the night. I’ll go through my nightly journey with everyone:
Start a bedtime routine. This includes a certain time on the clock that bedtime starts. I often take a short two minute nap before our routine starts to gear up for game time.
Let’s say I’ll start the bedtime routine at 8:30.
8:30. Give baby his bath first. Tell other children running wild in the house that I am giving the baby his bath, and to play nicely while I’m in the bathroom. Success rate is 50/50 if they actually play nice or tear the house down.
8:35 Baby’s bath is done. He is relatively easy to bathe, he enjoys his bath. I dress baby in his jammies. Other children proceed to play either extremely wildly, or pretty calmly, depends on the mood. This is not too hard of a time. I then move on to the next step.
8:45. I threaten older children with many threats that I am going in the baby’s room to put him to sleep. They must play calmly with their toys while I’m nursing the baby to sleep. As I try to peacefully nurse my little one, the ruckus begins in the living room. I hear running and shooting noises, which if I remember correctly, were just threatened only moments before. I take a few deep breathes. I lay half-sleepy baby down in his crib. Turn on his noise machine.
8:50 “Why are you being so loud, Jack’s trying to sleep!!!” said rather loudly by me. Oops.
8:51 Baby starts crying softly, but I must attend to the older children at this time.
8:55 Bath is ready for older boys, they are ushered into the bathroom and after their ritual of using the bathroom and undressing very slowly, they get into the tub. (Let me just say my middle boy undresses daily like a Houdini. He hates clothes. But at bath time they become very difficult to take off.) They start playing with their bath toys and they are behaving very well. They are enjoying the bath.
8:58 Go make sure baby is ok because he has been crying for several minutes. Put in binky, rock just a minute, and put back down. I think he is asleep.
8:59 Bathe boys in the tub. (Usually John is watching them and helping wash them. I don’t leave my children unattended in bath water.) Oldest child fusses that younger brother should be washed first. Whole ordeal ensues. Washing hair is a traumatic experience for everyone as “soap is in my eyes” is screamed forty times.
9:10 Time to get out and dry off. Oldest boy fusses that his brother should go first. Younger brother is dried off then runs off crying because he is cold. Same for the oldest. They go stand by the stove while I get pajamas. Baby starts crying again. Throw jammies at children and order them to dress while I head toward baby.
9:15 Ten minute warning is given. Play nice for a few more minutes while I try to get the baby back to sleep. I hear footsteps. I’m nursing the baby again because he just wants to be held. Oldest child runs in the bedroom holding a bandana in one hand and toy gun in the other. “Mama put this bandana on me”. I make a very unpleased face and point toward the door. He runs out the door and as soon as he gets to the doorframe starts whooping and running. Younger brother laughs and screams and runs. I hear noises in the bathroom. Runs with baby still nursing to the bathroom to make sure they’re not playing in the toilet. Oldest has to go number 2. This is ok. All is well, back to nursing the baby to sleep. (John will take care of the bathroom situation.) Baby seems very sleepy now, I think he is ready to sleep. Put baby down in the crib again.
9:20 Another ten minute warning is given. I lose track of time. Somewhere between now and 9:30 (which is the official bedtime) I brush teeth. Oldest brother insists younger brother goes first. Two minutes are spent convincing the youngest to open his mouth so the doctor doesn’t have to pull his teeth out. Oldest brother’s turn. Two more minutes spent convincing the child to open wide so I can get the back teeth. He says, “stop touching my head”. I have to touch his head to hold his mouth still. This happens every single night.
9:30 Another ten minute warning. I have to stop here and say that the oldest boy can only count to thirteen. He has no concept of ten minutes, and apparently, I don’t either.
9:35 (Baby has remained asleep. I go check on him. He is successfully asleep.) Score one for Mama!
9:36 “Get in bed! It’s past your bedtime!” I say. “I have to find something to sleep with!” Oldest runs into living room or around his room finding his choice of stuffed animal for the night. With the oldest, it changes every night. The younger brother has a pretty steady choice of stuffed dog that usually sleeps with him.
9:38 Time to read the bedtime story. Before we begin, we must find our spots on the bed. Younger brother can’t be touching older brother, or a fight breaks out. After this, we can begin our story. We’re currently reading Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. I start the chapter, read a few lines, then stop and tell boys to pay attention or I’m leaving. Read a few more lines. The oldest says, “I need a drink of water.” I look at him and say, “Seriously.” He runs off the bed and makes record time for his water break, declaring “That was fast!”. Yes it actually was very fast, you must have really been thirsty. (Sarcasm.) Read some more, break up another fight, read some more, hold one boy down to prevent fight with one hand while reading with the other, get to the end of the chapter.
9:45 Okay boys! Hugs, night-night all around, kisses several times, says I love you about 12 times, hugs and kisses some more. My heart is bursting because they are so sweet and I love them so much! I turn off the light after tucking the sweet little boys in their bed.
9:45:30 Sit on the couch. Whew, bedtime is over, right? Wrong. Screaming starts. “He’s touching me!!!”. I guess you can imagine what happens next. No further details are needed.
9:50 They are asleep… They are ALL asleep! I can finish my unfinished chores and get to bed myself.
That is how you successfully put children to bed. Like I said, I am an expert! I hope you caught the sarcasm in that. I am not an expert or a professional. But after the end of every day I love those boys more than anything and wouldn’t trade a bedtime routine like that for the world. Thank you, Lord, for the boys and the bed time routine.