We do early bedtimes around here. Mister hits the sack at 8, and the girls follow a half an hour later. During the summer we tried to move Mister's bedtime back, but he was overly tired all the time. He can handle staying up late for special occasions, but if he stays up past 8 a few nights in a row, he starts to fray and fall apart. The girls could probably handle staying up until 9, but I'm done at 8:30. They go to bed and talk quietly in the dark for a little while, and pass out around 9 or 9:30.
Bedtime was tremendously stressful around here for a long time because Dear couldn't handle it. I don't know why- maybe all of the anxieties she couldn't cope with during the day came to a head at nighttime and she panicked. It also may have been because children that come from a traumatic home typically suffered many of their traumas at night. Whatever the reasons may have been, a few nights a week for the first couple years we had the kids, Dear had a mental breakdown and would cry and yell and kick the wall. That pattern led to my own bedtime anxiety because every night I would wonder if she was going to do it again, and if I was going to be able to handle it. Not only was bedtime terrible, but guess who got up at the crack of dawn every day, too! Nobody slept much those first couple of years, because when Dear was awake she made sure everyone was awake. It was rough.
There wasn't any one important thing that worked to solve the problem. We did a lot of things- a consistent bedtime routine, chamomile tea, stories and/or songs. She continued to go through counseling, and we continued to work on helping her with expressing her feelings during the day. Eventually the tantrums just kind of petered out, and now it's been months since she's had one. Like anything else my kids have learned, I think we've done some things right and some things wrong, but given enough time they've figured it out anyway.
It's hard to be patient when you're in the thick of it. I can't even tell you how many nights I told Chris, "She has to stop now because I CAN'T do this one more night!" I was wrong, though. I did it many more nights. By the time we got to the last few tantrums I didn't even worry about it anymore, because I could see it going away. I'd be willing to bet my lack of anxiety helped them go away faster, too.
Now, Mister says goodnight and gives everyone a smooch, (pets included), and Chris takes him upstairs to play him a song and tuck him in. The girls finish up with their showers and brushing their teeth, and then they sit and talk to me for a little while. It's not planned or coerced, and some nights they'd rather wander back upstairs and putter around their room until bedtime. But most nights there's a sense of winding down, nobody wants to get started on anything new, and we just kind of sit around the living room. I might have a book or some knitting in my hands, but I'll stop reading so I can listen. Dear shows me what she's learning in math, and tells me about her friend who's been really upset because she doesn't get it. Slim talks about her history class and how she "basically already knows pretty much everything they're talking about." It's not always about school, though. Sometimes they talk about sports, or art, or family. It's never too heavy- a popular topic around here these days is 'what I want for Christmas and/or my birthday,' since those are all coming up. There are so many distractions and responsibilities during the day, sometimes this is the only time when everyone is relaxed enough that we can sit and visit about whatever we want.
I am grateful for this moment in our lives when this is what bedtime looks like.
**This has been Day 22 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.