|Bedtime reading -- even long after you outgrow the cradle!|
I was tucking in the not-so-little-anymore littlest one when it hit me that she is the only one I still read to on a regular basis – and that soon she’ll probably want to read on her own at bedtime, as her older brother and sister do now.
When the kids were little, we would take turns snuggling all together in one bed or another, rotating whose turn it was to choose the book. There were favorites, of course, most memorably Goodnight Moon and The Going to Bed Book. I can still recite large portions of both from memory.
As the kids grew – in both stature and story savvy – we moved to the stairs, where I could snuggle one child onto my lap and the other two on either side. We shifted from rhyming picture books to longer stories, then progressed to chapter books. I read the Little House on the Prairie series, a couple of E.B. White classics, and the first two or three Harry Potter books out loud to my children at bedtimes.
Gradually, as the older two became stronger independent readers, one or both of them would be too enmeshed in whatever book they were reading on their own to join the family bedtime reading session. I’d often find myself sitting unnecessarily on the stairs with only one child.
Now the youngest McPhaul is an independent reader, too. We still read together most nights, she and I, although now we alternate pages: she reads a page to me, I read a page to her.
I tuck the other kids in before or after, sharing a few moments – often our only one-on-one time of the day – to hear the news from their day, or to answer kid questions, or to simply appreciate that they still want me to tuck them in.
Bedtime is, however, not always peaceful. A morning person by nature, I am often frazzled by then – distracted by the running list of things to do before I get to go to bed myself, thinking of some work challenge or household task, or frustrated by the disarray I find when I step into the kids’ rooms to say goodnight.
Many nights I have to will myself to take a deep, calming breath and carry on through tucking-in time with some sense of calm. (I am not always successful in this endeavor.)
The littlest one takes the longest to tuck in. She often has reading homework, which she insists on saving until bedtime. After that, there is a whole series of bedtime measures that must be taken: a special song, our secret handshake, and a specific sequence of kisses. This can be both sweet and exhausting.
Since my bedtime revelation last week, I am embracing the sweet side of the bedtime routine and trying to let go of the rest.
This youngest child and her older sister often tiptoe downstairs – or slide down the banister – to find me long after they’ve been tucked in. They need a drink of water or to pack something in a school bag or to tell me one more thing. Sometimes they’re just after an extra hug.
Some nights I hurry them back to bed with a quick squeeze and a firm admonition to go to sleep. But sometimes I linger in that last hug of the night. I notice how tall my children have become and wonder how much longer they’ll come to me for one more post-bedtime cuddle. I know this phase, too, will pass as they grow bigger, more independent, further from those nights of bedtime stories read together.
Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her blog, Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the March 24, 2017 issue of the Littleton Record.