A funny thing about having young children is that your life becomes anchored to routines. But the routines are always changing. Maybe that's why parenting can make you feel as though getting it all together is always juuuust out of reach.
As a full time working parent I find myself looking forward to our evening bedtime routine the most. It's when the day stops feeling so crazy and when my shoulders start to relax. Getting the boys ready for bed and putting them to sleep is an essential thing we do each day, to the point that it can be forgettable, one day doesn't really stand out from the next. And yet I think we will look back at this time and feel nostalgic for when we held them and guided them to sleep.
And so I wanted to capture what our bedtime routine looks like right now. Because I know it will change, even in just a few weeks. Here's what bedtime looks like at our house right now, when our boys are 2 years old and 4 and a half months old:
We aim to have both Dashiell and Cedric asleep by 7ish PM. And so around 6:45 we start to transition to bedtime or earlier if we're doing baths. If both boys are getting baths then Chris draws a bath in our bathroom tub and also fills Cedric's little whale tub and sets it on the bathroom counter. Dashiell loves to run about the house in just his diaper, or completely naked, declaring, "I'm na-ted!" until we finally corral him into the bath. Cedric always looks a bit alarmed when he is first placed in the water but is quickly smiling and kicking and sploshing water all about the bathroom. We use this Baby Bee soap on both boys and I love how clean and babyish they smell afterwards
After baths, Cedric is wrapped in a white bear towel and Dashiell in a cozy blue shark towel. Somehow, probably as a way to coax Dash from the bath, we developed the habit of asking Dashiell if he wants to be a baby shark, to which he always says, "Yes!" with an intonation that ends higher than it starts.
Chris wraps Dash up in the shark towel and cradles him like a baby. Dashiell loves it and is brought over to me and I exclaim over my baby shark. Dashiell kicks and laughs. Both boys get dried off, diapered and pajamaed. Right now Dash is wearing a pair of soft pants and long sleeved shirt for sleep and Cedric wears the most adorable stripped or sailboat one-piece pajamas from Carter's (but couldn't find a link!).
Before I nurse Cedric I swaddle him from the waist down using a Swaddle Me. After I don My Brest Friend I carry Cedric, who is heavier and sturdier by the day, to the red arm chair in the corner of our room to nurse. I put up my feet and settle in as Chris takes Dashiell to fill his humidifier, which they refer to as "hydrator", and to brush teeth.
I keep all the lights off in our room and either read on my Kindle or scroll through social media while Cedric nurses and begins to fall asleep. Every day the evening light lingers a bit longer and now I can see him clearly even once he's deeply asleep, his small hand resting on my chest. Chris brings Dashiell in to say goodnight after they brush teeth. Dashiell still pauses sometimes when he speaks sentences and he says, "Good...night...mama. Good...night...Did-it. I wa-doo." Sometimes he wants to come and hug Cedric a few times or kiss him many, many times and pet his head. I tell Dashiell good night and I love you and we blow kisses to each other as Chris carries him to the nursery for stories. Even in the past few days this part of the routine is changing and Dashiell now prefers to walk in to say goodnight instead of being carried.
I hold Cedric even after he is asleep both to make sure he is deeply asleep and to take a moment to breathe. Chris finishes the bedtime routine with Dashiell which includes reading stories and then walking into Dashiell's dark room and tucking Dash under a blanket. "Daddy, tuck in?" he asks. Lately Chris has been telling Dashiell a story before bed. The main characters are always Dashiell and Cedric and they go on adventures in forests or shops reminiscent of those on Diagon Alley.
Dashiell often asks Chris, "I eh seep eh you." Which means, "I want to sleep with you." Chris lays down next to Dashiell and Dash throws his arm over Chris's neck and they snuggle in. When I put Dash to bed last week he did the same thing to me, our heads resting together, his warm toddler breath on my neck. After a few minutes you can pat Dash and say, "OK, good night, I love you." And he will answer in a whisper, "Good night. I wadoo." And then his door and baby gate are closed so gently.
Sometimes Dashiell gets up after he's been put to bed. He opens his door and stands at his baby gate. He calls, "Daddy, I wadoo! See you waiter!" Sometimes he wants to be tucked in again. But he always ends up going to sleep after an additional tuck in or two and it's so sweet and so we don't mind.
When both boys are finally asleep the house is dark and two noise machines try to convince you that there is a downpour happening right in our hallway. There is a peace in the post-bedtime hours that is unlike any I have ever felt and also a tidiness that has nothing to do with the state of the house. It's the feeling of knowing that nothing will become undone unless I am the undoer. No one will leave crumbs about or rifle through drawers. No one will ask for me and both of my arms will be free. For someone so particular about my surroundings this is a relief every night.
Sometimes Chris and I play a game, like Yahtzee or Dominion (a new-to-us game) or watch reruns of Parks and Rec. I always pump in the evenings and that is usually made more tolerable in the company of dessert. We both aim to be asleep by about 9, Chris sometimes earlier because unfortunately his wake up call comes around 4 from Dashiell.
And that's our routine right now. It all feels so familiar right now but I'm sure will seem so distant a year from now. Perhaps we'll be putting the boys to bed in the same room or all snuggle into one bed to read stories. Whatever it is it will keep being a favorite part of my day.