Feb 1, 2003
Marcia T Tofteland
Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis
DO YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN have a bedtime ritual? A regular routine that your children look forward to makes going to bed an enjoyable end to the day. I believe most parents would agree: An easier bedtime makes home life more peaceful.
Parents know that children love repetition and routine. When a child has a favorite storybook, parents will be asked to read it again and again, until often both parent and child can recite it by heart.
Reading introduces children to the world of the imagination. An early introduction to this delicious world will give them a lifelong appreciation of the benefits and rewards of reading.
Children love to be read and sung to; in fact, they love any time we devote to them, so spending time with them at bedtime is important. Sending them to slumber with a strong sense of being part of a loving family is essential to their well-being and self-esteem. Creating a bedtime routine is something your children will remember and cherish for a lifetime.
The Adventures of Willie the Worm
Our son, Josh, now 21, fondly remembers our various bedtime routines. One popular night-- time ritual consisted of a medley of lullabies (some of them personally abridged versions of nonlullaby love songs or prayers) combined with a calming back scratch or rub.
Of all of our bedtime traditions, Josh's unsurpassed favorite was "The Adventures of Willie the Worm." These adventures were created by my husband, Curt, and tailored exclusively to the life of Joshua Tofteland.
Willie the Worm lived in our yard under a bright red tulip. Willie's adventures were shared by his best friends-Harry the Hummingbird, Betty the Butterfly, Stanley the Squirrel, Twyla the Toad, Lylia the Ladybug, Poor Sport Simon, and, of course, Josh. The tale would always culminate in a dilemma (created from an actual problem Josh was struggling with) that none of the imaginary characters could solve. Invariably, one of the characters would suggest that they ask Joshua for his advice, and he would offer his solution. Soon, difficulties cleared up thanks to Josh, the characters would celebrate and all would be well again in the world of Willie the Worm.. that is until the next night, when another fiasco that could only be solved by the wise Joshua would befall the characters.
When Josh was around 6, a new bedtime routine evolved. After one or two of his favorite bedtime songs and a Willie the Worm story, Josh would say "Mommy stay and Daddy leave," indicating something was troubling him and he wanted to discuss it privately. Josh began by telling me about his day-this from a boy who normally, when asked, "What did you do in school today?" would reply nonchalantly, "Nothing." Eventually, the conversation would segue to what was troubling Josh. Although I helped him with homework almost every evening, our bedtime ritual was often the only true glimpse I'd get into Josh's life away from home.
As Josh started opening up to me, I learned more and more about his life in school, his friends, and what was troubling him. I wasn't fooled completely. I knew that part of his new openness was a way to stay awake a little later, but I didn't mind. The new communication was invaluable to our maturing relationship.
The tradition of bedtime sharing of lives continued through the years of middle school and beyond. As Josh matured, so did our conversations. Even if the problems seemed frivolous to an adult mind, I always gave them the respect they deserved because nothing is frivolous to a child. Everything children cope with is serious to them and deserves to be acknowledged and responded to accordingly. Developing a relationship based on communication and respect can't begin too early in life.
As Josh grew older, some difficult topics arose, but these conversations were made easier by the strong foundation of communication laid down early in our relationship.
Today, Joshua and I have an open, loving, respectful relationship. I
confess it's difficult for me, at times, to adjust to him being an adult.
That difficulty is mine, however, not his; I'm just a mom who's having
a hard time realizing her "baby" is a man.
© 2003, Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis