My husband and I take turns putting William to bed, but every night, regardless of the parent, he goes through the same bedtime routine. First, at 7PM, he has his bedtime snack. Then around 7:15PM, he gets his teeth brushed, while still in the high chair. From about 7:15-7:45PM, we let him wind down, play and finish his water. We often put something soothing on TV and just let him get the rest of the energy out. We figured out a long time ago that putting him to bed before giving him this time just resulted in him tearing like a crazy person around his crib. If he's going to be awake and playing, I want to enjoy it. Finally, we start upstairs around 7:45 (maybe 8PM), by saying "night, night, love, love" to the parent not doing bedtime, with lots of hugs and kisses, and then William will proudly climb the stairs and dashes into his room. Sometimes, he goes directly to his crib and wants to be put in, wanting to be tucked-in and read any story mom/dad chooses. Other times, he runs over to the big bin of books we have and picks out a book he wants read to him, squealing with glee while he runs to us and gives us the book. Once books are picked out, we put him into his crib, tuck him in, and read him a story.
I used to look at books as something that brought me entertainment, as I was always a voracious reader. My parents read to me every night, too, and I know that their dedication to reading to me despite the fact that some nights they were bone tired, helped me to develop the passion for books I have today. Now, though, I see books as a way I can bond with my son and I see them through his eyes, and I love them every more. Bedtime isn't just about reading, it is about exploring worlds, bonding over rhythms, tracing the letters in the sleepy little alphabet or going on a journey to find a name. It is about books and making them exciting and interesting, figuring out what voice will make him excited or thinking on how to help him learn to interact with them, as well. Some nights, I totally rock at it and I have him in giggles and stitches before I go into a quieter book. Other nights, I am left reflecting what I could do better as he piles blankets on my head in protest of my choice or how I'm approaching the book.
One day, in the future that seems to be ever approaching, he will no longer want my stories, my voices or these bedtime rituals. He will want to put himself to bed, curl up with a book of his choice and read himself to sleep. In this future, I will creep in, turn out the light, tuck him in and kiss him gently on the temple. For now though, in this fleeting time where he wants me to read to him, giggles at my voices and wants to share them with me, I will try and always read the one more book, tell the one more story and give him one last bedtime kiss. For I love reading to my son at bedtime and these are the memories I'll cherish when that future day comes.