We all have bedtime rituals which we go through every night before we fall into bed and drift off into dreamland. Some of us have to make sure we brush and floss our teeth, brush our hair, fluff our pillow and settle our bodies into just the right position. As we get older, the routine usually involves some of the same things, but in a little different way — instead of brushing our teeth, we take them out; instead of brushing our hair, we take it off; we take out our hearing aids before we fluff that pillow and as we settle into that perfect position, we hope we aren’t too stiff to get out of bed in the morning!
Children’s bedtime rituals are a lot different — sometimes a little more complicated but definitely sweeter and a lot more comforting – and they don’t involve taking out teeth. Each of my children had very unique ways of falling asleep – and thankfully none of their rituals have followed them into adulthood — or if they have, their spouses are not telling me about them!
Jenny had a special blanket as most children do — and it had to go to bed with her every night. The blanket was pink with discolored corners. The corners were originally pink like the rest of the blanket but after years of use, they lost their color. Every night, Jenny would stick a corner of the blanket in her mouth and chew on it as she fell asleep. At the same time, she had another corner she would rub under her nose as she drifted off to sleep. If she woke up during the night, she would repeat this process. We weren’t able to take the blanket away from her at night until she was almost five years old – and then I had to lie to her and tell her that the blanket had gone to live with another little girl who needed it more than Jenny did. Luckily she bought the story and learned to fall asleep without her ‘pacifier’.
Bob liked stuff animals when he fell asleep – not because he liked to cuddle with them but because he would stick his little finger through the tag on the animal and rub the tag until he fell asleep. It had to be the right kind of tag — one that was smooth and didn’t have stitching on it. He would lay the animal on his chest, put his finger through the tag and rub it with his thumb – and be asleep in two minutes! Unfortunately for Bob, he made his sister, Jenny angry at him when he was about three – which caused Jenny to take her safety scissors and cut the tags off of every one of the stuffed animals in the house. Bob didn’t sleep for two days – and Jenny didn’t see her friends until he did!
Tim had a very unique bedtime routine. From the time he was about six months old, he would like to have a knitted baby blanket across his chest. He would then pat the blanket (on his chest) with his left hand until he fell asleep. It had to be a knitted blanket — couldn’t be just a plain blanket — and it was always against his chest. When he was about five years old he switched to a fuzzy blanket — but the chest thumping continued until he was a teenager. Not sure why he stopped then — but we were all happy we didn’t have to hear the thumping at night any longer.
Becky was probably my easiest to get to sleep. Her only requirement was that she have a really soft blanket on which she could rub her face as she fell asleep. If there wasn’t a blanket available, her father’s chest was a good substitute – but it was imperative that her cheek be in contact with something soft so she could rub back and forth as she fell asleep.
My grandchildren have developed their own little quirks also. Elizabeth likes to have someone caress her hands and arms while reciting The Lord’s Prayer. Ever since she was a baby, she has enjoyed the cadence of the prayer and falls asleep very content. Liam has to have his ‘magic pillow’. When he was fussy we started laying him on a pillow from our couch — it has a rough texture which Liam seemed to like to feel under his tummy. So – now he still has that pillow which helps him sleep.
We all have our own ways of getting to Dreamland. After a long, crazy day at work, I find that the easiest way for me to fall asleep is to think of those lovely little faces as they dozed off – and how even in sleep they could make me smile.