Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bed Time Ritual

My husband and I believe in regular household rituals and routines. We think predictable daily patterns help children to feel confident and secure. For example, the bed time routine never changes for our little guys. We always clean up toys, brush teeth, bathe, put on jammies, read a Bible story, pray as a family, and tuck all the kids into bed. Our nightly ritual is always the same.

Well ... almost always the same.

Tonight our eldest son reminded us why we never change the routine. Our four-year-old is a boy who hates change. He loves to eat the same kind of sandwich every day for lunch, to play with the same toys, and to read the same books. Small variations to our son's neatly ordered world tend to throw him off.

Every evening our little boy says exactly the same prayer at bed time. I can quote it verbatim, as I have heard him say it roughly a million times:

"Thank you for God thank you for today thank you for my family too amen."

Tonight, however, our four-year-old decided to be creative. Good for him! His unprompted prayer went something like this:

"Thank you, God, for today. Thank you for my wonderful family ... and thank you for that lamp. Amen."

Prayer time ended and the boys hustled off to bed. Our eldest son climbed the ladder up to his new bunk bed and peeled back the covers.

"Mommy!" he cried, "Where are my sheets!" He burst into tears.

A few days ago I bought two new sheet sets for the boys' bunk beds. Earlier this afternoon I changed their old blue-coloured sheets for fresh, clean beige ones. Apparently, my son was not impressed with his newly laundered bedding.

"I want my old sheets!" he wailed, "You need to change them back! You need to change them right now!"

Change! Ahhhh! I should have known better than to mess with the bed time ritual. Attempting to reason with an over-tired preschooler at bed time is a losing battle. After several frustrating minutes I finally decided to take a sneaky approach.

"I'm sorry buddy," I said in a soothing voice, "I didn't know you wouldn't like your new sheets. I'll make a deal with you ..."

"What is it?" my son asked between sobs.

"Well, your blue sheets are in the washing machine right now. They're all wet and soapy. Why don't you lay your head on your pillow while you wait, and if you're still awake when your sheets are washed and dried, I'll change them for you."

"Okay, Mommy," my son reluctantly agreed. He crawled under his covers and snuggled his blankie.

Weird ... my conversation with our four-year-old happened over an hour ago. I haven't heard a peep from his room since :-).

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