Peter Pan said, “ Little boys should never be sent to bed. They always wake up a day older.” The first time I read that quote, my boys were already asleep in their rooms for the night, and the sentiments behind the line seemed sweet and nostalgic. The next morning when the day was in full swing and the volume in their voices was up too loud and every room in the house already bore a mark of their destruction, I started to think Peter Pan didn’t know what he was talking about.
There are days, a lot of days, when bedtime is a finish line that can’t be reached fast enough. When you are sprinting through the bath and the stories and the praying and stuffed animal retrieval and the song singing and the tucking in just so you can close the door and wrap up the Netflix series you have been binging on.
I’ve been there. I happen to think the reason bedtime is so hard is because it happens at bedtime. You’re spent by the time it arrives. Everyone is on their last leg. No one is operating at full capacity, which makes this time of the day hard to maximize the meaning of, and hard to get the most out of.
That being said, not every night will be magical. But when we become intentional and make an effort with what we have, we may be surprised at what we get.
Communication: Intimate conversation
Goal: Build intimacy
As an adult, I find that bedtime is the time when all the things that have happened that day come flooding into my mind. Kids are the same way. Bedtime is a naturally reflective time. So use it to your advantage! Ask your kids what’s going on in their heart. Did anything make them sad today? Anything make them happy? Anything that is bothering them or isn’t sitting right?
This is one of the best parts of my day. I lie next to my five-year-old, scratch his back and I get to hear the good stuff. About how much he loved having pizza, how he didn’t understand why he lost something because of his attitude. This is the time where everyone gets closure on the day, and when you help offer it as the adult, you communicate to your kids that you are safe and trustworthy.
Because of the ages of my boys this is also when I hear about fears of what might be lurking in the closets, under the bed or in the corner. It’s when I get to assure them of the timeless truths that mean the most to them right now:
“God is with you.”
“You are braver than you think you are.”
It’s also a great time to draw attention to the things we see God doing in our kids as individuals.
“I saw the way you helped your brother today, and I am so proud of you.”
“I loved how you ate all of your broccoli without complaining, even though you don’t love it.”
“I noticed how you put your clothes away and I didn’t even have to ask! Thank you.”
Let your kids know, no matter how old they are, you notice them. You see potential in them. And you’re for them.
Bedtime is definitely something we get to utilize the most when our kids are young. But we shouldn’t be quick to eliminate it the possibility of it as our kids get older—though obviously it will look different.
I remember as a teenager, every night I went out, my dad waited up for me. He would be sitting in his chair watching TV, or dozing off. And it wasn’t just that he would stay awake for me, it’s that he would stay awake after I got home. Because as a dad to a teenage daughter he knew that if the stars aligned, I just might start talking about something meaningful. I might. He knew, you can’t plan for those times, but you can be available for when they do happen. This is the stage where your teenagers set the tone more than you for what’s to happen—so be prepared and be willing when they make the time to talk.
Not every day is a win. Not every time with our kids is purposeful. But when we look for the chance to impart meaning and purpose, we may find opportunities we never knew we had, and the chance to relate to our kids in ways we never imagined possible.