Disclaimer: This title is not meant to offend anyone, not single parents, not military spouses, nor my own spouse. It is simply a funny way to say I get my kids in bed by myself most nights. Relax and enjoy some humor. It’s good for your cardiovascular system.
With a spouse that works second shift, I am almost always on bedtime detail by myself.
How, oh how do I get stuck on bedtime detail alone every time we have an infant?
If you recall, when Squishy Bean was a little Squish, my husband was working until 11 pm, so I was putting a toddler and an infant (and sometimes a friend’s toddler) to bed alone. Bedtime with multiple small children can really be tricky, especially the more children you add.
Now that we have three of our own little people, I have had to create two sections of our bedtime routine: Baby Brother’s bedtime and the girls’ bedtime.
Since I am primary parent on duty from mid-afternoon until late morning the next day, I am a firm believer in decently early bedtimes for everyone and the strategic use of a digital clock to teach staying in bed until a specific time in the morning. It is truly a sanity saver for me.
Our bedtime routine, then, typically starts around 6:30 pm, after the girls and I have eaten dinner. Baby Brother has probably been hanging out with us at the table, either in my lap or in the pack and play with some toys. By 6:30, the Little Sir is getting quite tired. He has begun to wake at night again, so his nighttime sleep isn’t as restorative as it had been. Because of this, I am trying to get him down and asleep by 7 pm. (More on why this isn’t happening currently but what I’m doing to help make it happen eventually).
In our home, someone gets a bath every night, but not every one gets a bath every night. Baby Brother takes baths on his own, since he cannot sit up, and the girls take baths with each other. Once Brother can sit up more confidently (much closer to 12 months old), he’ll join the girls in the bath. But for now, his bath alternates days with the girls baths. If it is a night for him to get a bath, I let the girls either look at books, color, or watch a short television show while I bathe their brother.
I know a lot of people that like to involve older siblings in bathing baby, but that is simply not for me, nor is it for Baby Brother. He is a very alert, very extroverted little guy, and his sisters stimulate him so much. He loves them and laughs at them constantly. Having them help bathe him is just too stimulating and prevents him from settling down well.
After a bath and some lotion, I diaper and pajama the Little Guy, read him a short book, and nurse him. Unfortunately he doesn’t fall asleep nursing. Bitsy Girl always did, and it was a cinch to put her down to bed at night; Squishy Bean was hit or miss, but when she did fall asleep nursing, life was easier. Baby Brother finds his last little bit of energy after nursing, so I often find I have to swaddle and rock him to sleep. This usually takes only 10-15 minutes.
(Added Bonus: Standing while swaying and rocking a 17 lb baby is an excellent oblique workout. I should write a post on postpartum fitness. Haha. Just kidding.)
Theoretically, if all has gone well, Baby Brother is asleep in his crib by about 7 pm. If not, he is laying in his crib with some nighttime music playing, talking to his stuffed monkey. (Desperate times call for desperate measures, folks.)
It’s at this time that I round up the girls if Baby Brother has gotten a bath that night. If it is a night for the girls to get a bath, I let their bath fill up while I’m putting pajamas on the Little Guy. Once it’s full, I let them hop in and play a bit while I nurse and rock their brother. Fortunately, the bathroom is right next to the nursery, so I can hear them giggling, playing, and splashing. I usually instruct them to keep their fun to a dull roar.
After Baby Brother is in the crib, it is time for the girls to either get clean or get pj’s. Bitsy Girl is very self-sufficient in the bathtub, so she can wash herself fairly well. I do often help her condition her hair since she has so darn much. Squishy Bean can wash herself just fine, as well, but she needs to be supervised in order to do so.
Once I have two clean girls, they hop out of the tub, dry off, go potty, brush teeth, and put on pajamas. Then we tiptoe (like ninjas, of course) to the girls room to read a story. On nights when they don’t bathe, we can read a longer book; on bath nights, I ask them to pick shorter books. Most nights they ask for ridiculous numbers of books. Suffice it to say, we are big fans of reading before bed.
After a book, we talk about our favorite things and least favorite things that happened that day. I love having these few minutes to connect with the girls and to get a window into their little minds and souls. Having an infant often means the older siblings get less attention than they had previously. Setting aside time to talk about the day forces me to look them in the eye and hear what they have to say.
We usually finish our bedtime routine with a prayer. We used to ask each girl to pray for themselves and others, but recently I read this blog post, and we have been trying to read Psalm 121 each night. It’s simple enough for the girls to understand, and short enough to read in its entirety before bed. Plus I love that they ask me every night where Israel is; then we have to check our world map in the morning to see, again, where Israel is. They are often disappointed to find out it is, in fact, not in Wisconsin.
Then we kiss, hug, shnuggle, and I remind the girls that they need to stay in bed, stay still, and stay quiet. I turn on some nighttime music, and leave the room, hopefully by 7:30 pm.
There are days when I check back in a few minutes, and both girls are asleep. These are few and far in between. Most days I have to check in several times, reminding the girls (ok, just the Bean) to stay quiet and still. On a good day, everyone is asleep by 8 pm. On a bad day, I have to grab Baby Brother and nurse him to sleep laying down (which is not as convenient as it sounds). Then they are all asleep by 9 pm.
At which point I have to face the sink full of dishes.