By Samantha from Back To Me
When we got pregnant I had a few fears about our impending bundle: the wee one would be colicky (check!), would rage against the car (dodged that bullet), and would be a bedtime h8r. In fact, the sleep issue was the one I was most concerned about so I made sure to read up on ALL the sleep solution books I could get my water retaining hands on. The main theme? GET THEE TO A ROUTINE AND QUICK, WOMAN. This was a no-brainer for me as it made complete and total sense. Routines help kids feel secure, know what’s coming next and not throw them into a rabid frenzy with each bed time transition. So that is what we did.
Granted, we started right out of the gate and have remained pretty consistent, which I think has helped us tremendously. No joke: anyone who comes over and sees us put Theo to bed is gobsmacked at how easy it is and how we all just do our thang without crying or throwing a tantrum (him or us). Our son is 19 months old and although he’s the sweetest and most laid-back child in the history of the land, he can lay the smack down with the best of them and will voice his concerns by way of verbal or physical abuse if needed. He’s not a robot is what I’m saying. We don’t slip him a Quaalude in his sippy cup, nor do we house him in restraints. We just have a simple system and stick to it. That is not to say that it’s ever too late to implement a routine. Better late than never for sure. But if your nights are full of stress and anxiety during The Witching Hour then please, feel free to cut and paste our routine to fit the needs of your family. I’m a share bear, what can I say.
1). I. Change. My. Outfit.
I wear dry-clean only clothes to work and there is no WAY I’m wrangling a toddler at the end of the night in a suit. I make the mental transition to being home by getting in my Mom gear and yes, that includes some type of pajama pant with an elastic waist, a tee shirt from college, and my hair piled high atop my head and out of my face. I can’t even TELL you how this changes me. I can wrestle with my son and not worry about ruining anything. I can wipe a nose with my sleeve. Cook dinner without worry of splatters. Changing my clothes changes my attitude and it’s vital.
2). Stop. Drop. Roll.
Once I’m in my comfy clothes I get down on the floor and play with my son. Not necessarily for a long time, but I really think giving him my focus for ten or so minutes controls meltdowns as he’s not as desperate for my undivided attention. But each kid is different and you know what would work best. Coloring? Dance Mania? Fresh air outside? One on one time is what I’m pushing here. You provide the details.
3). A quick dinner that I know Theo will eat.
I am no culinary genius, and in the event of full disclosure a lot of our meals come from Trader Joe’s in the freezer section. But they are good, and more importantly they are quick. The whole point of this is to ease stress for everyone involved, even the cat (though she DOES like Dinner Rejections since she cleans up the castoffs on the floor, but she’s the minority so take it for what it’s worth). Theo gets a variety from the four major food groups, and I will offer him new things but for the most part? I stick to what he knows. The weekends can be more for experimentation with hummus and pita chips. Monday nights? Notsomuch. If your kid loves to sample new foods then please, drive that home. Rock your kid’s palate the best way you know how.
4). Oh guess what? More play time!
This can be snuggles, books, blocks, throwing a ball around, pretty much anything that doesn’t involve fire and will help ease Theo into The Next Phase. Does this sometimes get tackled by my husband? Oh yeah. Daddy roughhousing is a big win over here after dinner, with me usually squawking “HE JUST ATE! DON’T MAKE HIM PUUUUKE!” This is also a sure fire way to tire Theo out (Warning! Do not attempt this unless you know how your child will react as this could have the OPPOSITE affect and actually make them MORE WIRED and unable to get to sleep. Results may vary.)
5). A soothing soak.
We are so down with our schedule that I can literally say “Okay dude, time for a bath!” and Theo will drop what he’s doing and plod off to the bathroom. And yes, I am enjoying this while I can for I am well-versed in the Things Can Change department. But if your kid hates water? Didn’t get that stinky? Maybe pull a sponge-bath situation and wet a washcloth and only go to town on High Urgency areas.
6). After jammies it’s time for books.
We are lucky in that Theo is OBSESSED with books so this is perfect. It helps him wind down, and we all get to snuggle and hang out together before night night time.
7). Sleepy sleepy!
I have sung the same song to Theo at bed time since he was a newborn. Theo knows it so well he starts to hum it when we enter his room and that just makes my heart swell because I love that it’s a sense of security for him. I hope one day he will think of that song and remember being safe in my arms in the cool and dark of his room. What a wonderful way to end the day. For all of us.
Going over our routine I fear we may have raised a Pavlovian dog. But he’s a cute little fluffer who is chill when we get home at night so I’m okay with that. Now, it goes without saying that what works for one may not work for another so on and so forth. But I am proof positive that the after work and daycare hours don’t have to be wrought with tears and tantrums. And isn’t that a beautiful and relaxing thought?
Now tell me, do YOU have any tricks of the trade for a stress free evening? Let us all in on your wisdom!
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