Bedtime, a lesson in reframing

kelly shealer toddler betimeBedtime…ugh!

Every night, it was the same thing: My sons were 4 and 2 and seemed to be doing everything they could to keep from going to sleep. There was a sudden desire to play with all the toys that had been cleaned up, an endless stack of bedtime books, recurring requests for snacks and water, and a lot of stress on my part.

I dreaded it.

I knew that my negative attitude toward bedtime was rubbing off on my sons. They could sense it, and it made them dread bedtime, too. To them, it was the time when play stopped and when Mommy started getting frustrated.

Something had to change.

It wasn’t easy to change my attitude. I started by telling my sons how much I loved bedtime, how I loved lying in bed with my youngest son in the evening and how I loved this special time I got to spend with just them while their baby sister was asleep.

It wasn’t always how I felt, but as I started to focus on the positives, I started to feel that way for real.

I did truly enjoy this chance to lie down with my 2-year-old son. With a new baby, I had very few opportunities throughout the day to cuddle with him, and I loved that he still wanted me at bedtime.

I also reminded myself that reading a few books was part of the bedtime experience, not just something to prolong their evening. I love reading to them, but it doesn’t always happen much during the day, so I reminded myself to build in extra time for it at bedtime.

One of the most important things in changing my attitude was to stop looking at the clock. In fact, I removed the clock from the bedroom. Not stressing over how long bedtime was taking helped me enjoy it more, and soon I realized that it was taking less and less time overall.

I know that I don’t have to stay with my sons until they are asleep — or almost asleep. I know that even if they still want or need me but it really isn’t working for me, I could find a way to transition them into a different routine — just as I did when I weaned them and stopped cosleeping. But I also choose to remind myself that there will be a day that they don’t want me with them at bedtime, and I want to enjoy this moment now.

I no longer think of bedtime as a burden or as something that cuts into my time to myself each evening, and it’s made a huge change for all three of us.

Author: Kelly Shealer

Kelly Shealer is the mom of 2 active boys and 1 adventurous girl, all born almost exactly 2 years apart. Kelly encourages imaginative play and messy art projects and sees everything as a learning opportunity. She also enjoys the library, relaxing at the beach and cooking Italian food. Kelly is a postpartum doula and API Leader in Frederick, Maryland, USA.

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