the day the bedtime routine changed

I never thought it would come.


If we were being filmed though, the foreshadowing would have been obvious to the audience months ago. Or at least weeks.

Before I proceed, let me just say there are still some kinks to be worked out. And who knows if this will hold for two nights running, or more? Maybe it’s an aberration.

Tonight, for the first time ever, we read one book, and we sang one song.

It started like this:

Scott says, “Honey, do you think YOU could do books and songs tonight?”

I think that I’ve been shirking my responsibilities in that area and perhaps taking advantage of fun daddy with the great singing voice and larger repertoire of “long songs” for far too… long.

During some recent bedtime routines, we’ve briefly discussed, in rapid barks sotto voce like soldiers in a trench muttering to each other while under attack, that things needed to change. It’s not just the duration. The fact that bedtime takes an hour, what with the running around naked, refusing to put pajamas on, pretending to brush teeth but not brushing them, demanding cups of milk or water, delaying selection of the 3 books, complaining after the singing of the 3 songs that they aren’t long enough so the negotiating for more songs after a negotiated period of time of waiting for sleep to come and being checked on, the flat out refusal to fall asleep until it happens during a song, if he can help it.

Possibly the worst part for us was the recent development of his TALKING during songs.

Songs was sweet and cute for the first 3 years or so. Especially when it used to involve cuddling together in the glider chair. But at some point in the last year, he decided he wanted to be sung to while lying in his bed. That development alone was enough for me to quit the singing portion of bedtime. What fun is it to serenade him without him falling asleep in my arms?

Two days ago, we moved the glider chair to my office and put a small sofa in his room. Better for cuddling during books (or now, book).

What has made songs (song) so very much less fun lately is his new game of talking to the 14 animals he sleeps with while we are singing. Seriously? The audience isn’t even listening?

Last night Scott indicated to me that his rope end had been reached. Tonight’s salvo, launched at dinner, gave us the perfect opening for broaching the subject with our somewhat benevolent dictator, I mean 4-year-old.

With some discussion, and much input from the boy, we came to the agreement that bedtime would now go like this:

Pajamas, tooth brushing, one book, tuck into bed and dim lights, 11 minutes of talking to his animals, one song in the more-dark with no talking during it.

We still have work to do on parts one and two happening when we ask for them to start, but the rest went remarkably well.

I had a twinge about cutting down his books. We all love reading in general, and we love the fact that he loves to read. But we also read books in the morning. And maybe now we’ll do more reading in the afternoon, instead of at 7:30 at night when mommy and daddy are too cooked to be pleasant about it. And in fact we’d been having the problem of him not really paying attention during books either. Asking silly questions, interrupting, making jokes. And not in a cute way.

So I guess he was ready for things to change too and didn’t know how to say so?

During his 11 minutes of animal-friends time, he called me in and let me know that he was almost done. He only needed two more minutes, not the seven he had left on the timer. Not that he knew he had seven, just that I noticed how much was left when we changed it to two.

Why 11, you ask? Because for just over a year now, part of bedtime routine has been for him to say, and us to say almost the same back to him, “Good night. I love you. Check on me in one-plus-two-plus-eight and leave the door a little bit open.”

He came up with this little addition phrase all on his own. From our earlier efforts at getting him to fall asleep without using us as a crutch, sort of.

So I went back in after only four minutes and offered to sing. We turned off the lights but then I borrowed a flashlight because I’d printed out the lyrics to a new song (another tactic to try to end the insanity / make bedtime more pleasurable for all concerned) and I couldn’t see the paper.

I sang the song.

I said goodnight. I didn’t offer to come back and check on him. He didn’t ask for another song or to be checked.

That was it.

Stunningly painless.

Here’s to hoping the new world order sticks.

I’m starting to like 4.

* * *

By the way, this is the song:

(My friend Elina used to sing it to our boys when we were out together and I always wanted to learn the words. Scott’s dad sang it to Jonah with banjo accompaniment while we were in New Mexico last week. I love it.)

The Fox

The fox went out on a chilly night,
He prayed for the moon to give him light,
For he’d many a mile to go that night,
Before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o,
He’d many a mile to go that night,
Before he reached the town-o.

He ran til he came to a great big pen,
Where the ducks and the geese were put therein,
“A couple of you will grease my chin,
Before I leave this town-o, town-o, town-o,
A couple of you will grease my chin,
Before I leave this town-o.”

He grabbed the gray goose by the neck,
Throwed a duck across his back,
He didn’t mind their quack, quack, quack,
And their legs a-dangling down-o, down-o, down-o,
He didn’t mind their quack, quack, quack,
And their legs a-dangling down-o.

Then old Mother Flipper-Flopper jumped out of bed,
Out of the window she cocked her head,
Crying, “John, John! The gray goose is gone,
And the fox is on the town-o, town-o, town-o!”
Crying, “John, John! The gray goose is gone,
And the fox is on the town-o!”

Then John, he went to the top of the hill,
Blowed his horn both loud and shrill,
The fox he said, “I better flee with my kill,
Or they’ll soon be on my trail-o, trail-o, trail-o!”
The fox he said, “I better flee with my kill,
Or they’ll soon be on my trail-o!”

He ran till he came to his cozy den,
There were the little ones, eight, nine, ten,
They said, “Daddy, better go back again,
‘Cause it must be a mighty fine town-o, town-o, town-o!”
They said, “Daddy, better go back again,
‘Cause it must be a mighty fine town-o!

Then the fox and his wife without any strife,
Cut up the goose with a fork and knife,
They never had such a supper in their life,
And the little ones chewed on the bones-o, bones-o, bones-o,
They never had such a supper in their life,
And the little ones chewed on the bones-o.

12 comments for “the day the bedtime routine changed

  1. PopPop
    December 5, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    So sweet, so loving. You guys are the best!

  2. PopPop
    December 5, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    This is so sweet. You guys are the best!

  3. AKD
    December 5, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    I know that song! And I can’t remember from whence or whyfore! (Maybe my parents sang it to me when I was 4?) You might try looking up The Limeliters children’s album, “Through Children’s Eyes.” One of my childhood favorites, and it has a lot of old fashioned songs like that.
    Tonight for the first time my son insisted on going to bed with a rubber ball (like a dodge ball). It made the usual cuddling very annoying to have the ball in between us. I went in and moved it to the foot of his bed after he fell asleep and when I just checked on him a few minutes ago he had it in his arms again. Think we might be entering the obsessive toddler phase…

  4. December 6, 2011 at 6:26 am

    I am glad it’s going well.

  5. jen
    December 6, 2011 at 10:34 am

    good news! want to hear the melody….

  6. Melanie
    December 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Laura Veirs just recorded that song on her new kids album Tumblebee. It is awesome! Highly recommended. Love you!

  7. December 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    @Jen: I’ll sing it for/with you next time I see you!

    @Mel: Yay! Am adding it to holiday wish list right now.

    @Annika: I will definitely check that album out, too. I LOVE the old fashioned songs. We enjoyed our Music Together classes and those albums even included a few traditionals, but nothing stuck like The Fox has stuck.

    The rubber ball, OMG! I love it. Jonah slept with his giant plastic Thomas for at least a year, as well as other sundry small wooden trains. I never thought he’d ever upgrade to soft toys. The fact that there’s so many is not surprising. I did the same thing when I was little.

    @Heather: Thank you for your support of my blog Every. Single. Day. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. You rock.

    @PopPop: Thank you. :)

  8. December 6, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Update: We did the same routine tonight. Yay!

  9. Nana
    December 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Would love to hear the melody.

  10. December 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    that is a great song! way too long for me to remember…

    the only one i can do is one my Dad used to sing to me, nice and short:

    We went to the animal fair,
    The birds and the beasts were there,
    The big baboon by the light of the moon
    Was combing his golden hair.
    The monkey he got drunk,
    ran up the elephant’s trunk;
    The elephant sneezed and fell on his knees,
    And what became of the monk
    The monk! The monk!

  11. December 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Minnie! I love this song! How does the melody go?

  12. December 18, 2011 at 9:14 pm

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