A year ago on Simple Marriage: originally posted July 15, 2008.
As the father of a 2 and a 4 year old, there are some days when I really look forward to their bedtime. When they go to bed, the house slows down dramatically and I get some time with my wife. We can sit on the deck, talk, work on unfinished projects, make out, veg in front of the tube, whatever. The other reason for the anticipation of bedtime is the time spent together tucking them in.
I love the bedtime routine around our house. Typically each evening after dinner is spent playing, either outside, throughout the house, or we walk to the park nearby. While obviously this doesn’t always happen every night, many nights a week the routine remains the same.
As men, I believe it is extremely important that we be part of the bedtime routine with our children. I’ve come across too many men who have left this to the woman. While they are “busy” watching TV, working, or tinkering around the garage their spouse is taking care of getting the kids to bed.
The sad fact is, they are missing some valuable time with their kids.
Developmentally speaking, children thrive when there are established routines. A consistent structure allows them room to stretch and grow while having a safe foundation. While mom is perfectly capable of providing this foundation on her own, it can be so much stronger when you are involved.
At my house, since we have two little ones, we play man-to-man. After we have wrestled, played chase, had a water fight or played some other games together as a family, the routine kicks into gear. Once they are cleaned up and have the pajamas on, we end up in one of their rooms where we read books, play puzzles, or cars.
My wife will take one of the kids while I spend time with the other (we typically alternate each night).
While the routines around your house my vary greatly from ours, here are a few principles to be sure and apply.
- Be present. Nothing can replace your physical presence with your kids. Let them climb all over you, tackle you, chase you, laugh with you. Children long for things from their father. And to turn psychological for a moment, there are many disorders and issues that can result from lack of a blessing or presence from your father. Even when schedule doesn’t allow for your physical presence, you can call at bedtime, or send your kids a text message, or IM them. The point is, make contact.
- Unplug. When you are present, turn off the TV, computer, radio, phones, and anything else that can distract you from this time. If you’ve got Tivo, use the pause button. Let voice mail do it’s job. You’ll be telling your kids that they are a priority.
- Read books together. Even though neither of my kids are reading yet, my 3 year old knows every page of her favorite books since we’ve read them so many times. Books provide a tremendous opportunity for children to imagine, create, and learn. Begin with age appropriate books and move up from there. I already am building a library of a few books to read to the kids when they are older. A couple of these titles are The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, as well as The Invention Of Hugo Cabret.
- Snuggle. Climb into bed with your child. This is not possible with my son since he is still in a crib, but we do spend time together on the floor or in the rocking chair. With my daughter, I love climbing into her bed and laying beside her as we read. She asks questions, makes jokes, laughs, moves in close to lay her head on my shoulder. I hope to have my presence rub off on them during these times.
- Tell them you love them. Before leaving their room, let them know you love them. This may seem like a no-brainer principle, but it is easily overlooked. Especially as children get older. Make a point to let your children know you love them. Even when the day was extremely hard and they did a great job of testing their limits and your parenting ability.
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