I can easily say, bedtime is occasionally a challenge here. Not an impossibility. Just an ever-changing-puzzle of a challenge. We’ve got a nearly 4-month-old baby, an almost 3-year-old, and a heading-on-5-year old. Three different sets of sleep needs. And don’t forget the tired set of parents. (Geesh, we’re getting old. We didn’t used to be so susceptible to fatigue.)
As often as things change with each of the kids, I find myself behind the curve ball. It usually takes me at least a few days (if not a whole week) to figure out that things aren’t going so smoothly because someone’s gone and grown up a bit more. Perhaps they’re ready to go to bed a little later…or they need more responsibility…wider boundaries…or just a longer bedtime book to lull the mind into tiredness. Yes, growing up. Changing. And, it’s always back to the drawing board to figure out what they’re new needs are and how to best accommodate them and our ever-developing parenting philosophy.
But one thing remains consistent in our approach to bedtimes. I’m a firm believer that parenting does not end when we go to bed. That means that for me, parenting is a 24-hour-a-day job. Though I admit to not always being the best parent in the wee hours of the morning, I am there.
And although I have had nights in the past five years where I’ve wondered if the cry-it-outers, the Pantley-sleep-solutions, the sleep-trainers, perhaps had an edge on their sanity as parents, I always come back to the same place for me. Time is ticking and these kids are growing up so incredibly fast!
So, because many people have asked how we are able to go crib-free, I thought I’d share my most relied upon technique for bedtimes. It’s a technique I’ve used countless times to keep my own composure on the occasional long-bedtime-nights. And the I’m-going-crazy, when-will-my-child-fall-asleep nights do happen to us all. Sometimes for a week straight. Ugh.
As I figured my way with my first baby, visualization served to calm my mind and keep me focused as we sought the peace of bedtime.
I like to visualize a sunset hike because they’re one of my favorite things in life (you know, if you don’t count baby feet, naked baby heads, and dimpled baby bums). Sunset hikes are all about the golden streaming light. The calm winds that grace us. It’s a magic time for the land.
So, upon laying down with my first child when she was a baby, I held her and nursed her, honestly hoping the milk would knock her out. (But, it doesn’t always work that way. Babies grow up and have growth spurts.) On longer nights I’d eventually lay with her, resting until she drifted to sleep, sometimes in my arms and sometimes side-by-side, nose-to-nose.
Some nights our little one would be off to dreamland in a few minutes. Other times I had plenty of time to think. Sometimes, way too much time to think. And there were plenty of nights when frustration settled in. Why is it taking so long tonight? Why isn’t she asleep yet? Why won’t her legs stop moving? Is it a full moon? Wasn’t it just two weeks ago that we went through this? Meditation’s darn monkey mind.
As my mind frantically grasped for straws, I would pause, practice deep breaths, and imagine us walking down a trail together at night fall. The image represented my thoughts and commitment so well. We are together, because I have chosen this. I am committed to taking this journey, together, with each of my children.
For as many times as I’ve heard that children should learn to self-soothe, to fall asleep on their own…honestly, they won’t be looking for us at bedtime in just a few short years. It’s true. I’m seeing it now with my 5-going-on-15-year-old.
Now that my two older children have been sleeping together for more than a year, our bedtime routine looks different. I don’t usually need visualization for everyone to go to bed. Patience, yes. My 2 and 4-year old require very little of my physical presence and more ritual. So, we’ve adapted to their needs by supplying a rich system of events that generally occurs before bed each night. And, I know I’ll have one more sunset hike journey with Glenn…before we are all literally outdoors on sunset hikes eventually.
Curious, if you use (or were to use) visualization to help with your bedtimes, what would you choose to focus on?