Friday, October 17, 2008

Planet Bed ™

Mihret, pre-Planet Bed era, finding out how much fun an empty laundry basket can be. (Photo taken in June 2008)

One of the things pretty much any parent will tell you is that kids need routine.

Having been a parent for a little over a year, I question this somewhat. If you’re like me, and you take your kids to day care five days a week, you’re probably all too aware of the fact that trying to maintain that same schedule on a weekend is impossible.

For example, at my day care, they put kids down for a nap at noon.

Which I guess works fine for anyone who goes to church at eight AM on Sundays, and is out by nine, but which doesn’t work at all for folks like us, who finish church at noon and really, really need feed their kiddo, rather than allowing them to fall asleep with an empty tummy.

Because what kind of parent does that?

I even question how well the bedtime routine “works,” on the whole. I imagine that if there are kids who have problems going to sleep on a regular basis, that maybe they benefit from having a regular, “Okay, first we do this, then we do that,” routine.

But our kid?

When we first brought the wee one home, this was the routine:

At 7 PM, we’d go upstairs and start the bathwater running.

We’d get her undressed, and then put the little one into the tub and give her a semi-thorough scrubbing.

Then we got her out of the bath, dried her off, lotioned her up, and put on her jammies.

One of us would give her a bottle while the other one read a story.

We would do prayers, and if Mihret was having trouble going to sleep at the time, one of us would rock her until she passed out.

Then she got a little older.

The story was the first thing to go. Mihret engages very easily – she’s a social butterfly, which can be a problem when we’re trying to get her to go to sleep when we have guests over.

So no more story, because we’d get to the end and she would be wide awake, instead of slowly moving into dreamland as she finished up her formula.

Then came the question of when to get rid of the bottle. After she was a year old, people started telling us horror stories about decayed teeth and other such maladies. But we weaned her off the bottle almost by accident. One night, she was just so tired that we put her down and she went to sleep without one.

The next night, we didn’t have formula upstairs, but we did have some water. So we gave her a couple sips of that and she went to bed.

We did the same thing the next night.

And I declared us bottle-free, and we cleaned all the dirty bottles and never used them again.

There have been other changes as well. We used to turn on a low-wattage lamp so she could have a night light, but after a few weeks she stopped going to sleep. So that went off.

Then we discovered that the hall light was sometimes enough to keep her awake with, so that goes off now, too.

And there have been other problems. There were a couple of weeks where she was waking up screaming, and we got some nice advice about that. The best guess we were offered was night terrors, we’ve gone back and forth between the problem being that or something teething related. From what I’ve read, teething may actually cause night terrors, which lines up pretty well with the issues we’ve had.

(Two teeth to go. I am so looking forward to those last two chompers poking out of her gums, so that her bottom stops getting red at the slightest provocation, and her nose stops doing the consta-run.)

Eventually, Mihret’s “routine” became a little bit less routine. We still have a bath most nights, and lotion most nights, and we always have some version of pajamas.

But she doesn’t really like to be held and/or cuddled anymore just before bedtime, and even if she wants water, she’ll only drink about an ounce and then be done. So we started handing her a sippy and letting her wander around or play with us until 7:30, depending on what mood she was in.

We still do prayers, but we say them as we’re getting into bed, and they’re usually met with a very enthusiastic “Amen!” from the tiny one.

Over the last few months, however, we’ve grown (Kara more so than I) sad about the fact that we lost the nightly bedtime story. Pretty much any teacher will tell you just how important reading to your kids is, and while we try to do it during the day, it always added a nice cap to the evening.

And then, Planet Bed was accidentally born.

The birth of Planet Bed arrived thanks to a collection of nearly-unrelated events.

Mihret has her very own laundry basket, which, from time to time, is devoid of clean laundry. On this particular evening, she stepped into the basket, sat down, and looked up at me. “Ride?”

I figured why not, and picked up the kid-filled basket and carried it through the four rooms upstairs – Mihret’s room, the bathroom, the office, and Kara’s and my bedroom.

As it happens, the bottom of the basket was sitting about mid-thigh on me, which is roughly the same height as our bed. Without really putting any thought into it, I solemnly declared, “We’re landing on Planet Bed.” Then I set the basket down, and Mihret stood up, and I plucked her from the basket.

Kara was lying on the bed, working on something-or-other, when this happened. So I asked her if she wanted to read Mihret a story. And Kara said, “Yes,” and I grabbed one of Mihret’s books which currently resides in our bedroom.

And I left the two of them alone to read.

It’s not that I don’t value family time, but I am well aware that a) Kara could use some extra Mommy-Daughter time, and b) another person in the room would just be a distraction.

When the story was over, I came in, picked up Mihret, and we did prayers as we headed back to her bedroom. And then there were good night kisses, and then it was sleepytime.

Afterwards, Kara and I pretty much agreed this was a nice idea, and that we should stick with it. Mihret was reasonably calm during storytime, and given the chance to read to her, Kara was happy to take it.

So we did it again the next night. “Get in your basket, honey. We’re going to Planet Bed.”

And then the next night. Only Kara wasn’t there, so I had to fly Mihret to Planet Bed, and then read her a book, and then fly her back. Which is tiring. She keeps getting bigger.

But last night, it all paid off. In the middle of bath time, I said, “Mihret, are we going to Planet Bed after we take our bath?”

And Mihret said, “Planet Bed!”

Once her jammies were on, she went over to the basket, and sat down, and I picked her up, and she got her ride.

And when she landed, she said, “Planet Bed!”

I can’t say that I think routines are always necessary. But they can be a lot of fun.

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