I Don't Read To My Kids At Bedtime — Because My New Partner Does
I no longer read to my children at bedtime. Not because I don't like reading to them, but because reading to them at night was a tradition when I was still married to their dad. The four of us would sit on the same bed and snuggle up for bedtime reading. At the time, we mostly read picture books, nothing too complicated or hard. We often picked books all of us had memorized. We had the same bedtime routine as a family of four for almost six years, and then when my then-husband and I separated, we all had to adjust to the changes it had on our lifestyle. Reading together as a family are some of my most-favorite memories, but I haven't read to the kids since their dad and I separated, and the kids never complained and never expected us to continue with the tradition once we'd divorced. In fact, I still don't read to my kids at bedtime. Even though my two children were gracious and kind while my ex-husband and I tried to figure out bedtimes on our own, my new partner reads to my kids before they go to sleep now. And it's a routine I'm happy that they share.
After the separation and then divorce, I just couldn't bring myself to read to my kids every night with their dad gone. It broke my heart a little to go through the steps of something we'd done as a family of four. Eventually, I started encouraging the kids to take turns reading to each other for practice, and because they usually did it after school when they were just hanging out together. It was actually my kids who first suggested that my new partner continue to read to them. It was a thought that had crossed my mind before, but I wasn't sure if I was asking too much of my new partner to take on that kind of role. But when the kids and I asked him, he was overjoyed, if not more excited than the kids.
And for almost a year now, whenever the kids are at our house, the three of them have a 30-minute reservation to read together before bed. I'm usually in another part of the house when this takes place, but I can overhear my partner using different voices for characters (something I'd never do), and both kids asking a non-stop string of questions, growing impatient for more details. Hearing them, it warms my heart.
Before we started this tradition, I wanted to be careful that I wasn't trying to recreate or replace something we'd had before. Instead, I wanted to ensure that my kids knew that a new tradition had been born, and it was one created on the love they had with their dad. It's not that I can't or don't want to be a part of these readings, but I've watched this routine grow into an intimate and cherished part of the day for them all and I don't want to intrude. They look forward to the time they get to spend together, huddled on a twin bed reading Harry Potter. Some nights I sit in on the story, and I take in how my daughter hangs on every word, how my son alternates between the stack of books he keeps besides him and the story Noah is reading out loud. I watch them, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
My kids have been able to dictate what kind of routine works best for them when they're going to bed in each place. I love that they've been able to have a say and create their own bedtime traditions. More than anything, I love that they feel they're not losing anything.
I'm not really of the mindset that bedtime routines are sacred or not to be messed with, but after moving out of my old house and not spending every night with my children, I realized that the habits we'd formed together were sacred. And while I began to think that perhaps these sacred moments were lost, I'm thankful new ones have been created.
At my ex's house, I learned that my kids were making their own new family traditions for bedtime with each other. By living in two homes with two new additional parents, my kids have been able to dictate what kind of routine works best for them when they're going to bed in each place. I love that they've been able to have a say and create their own bedtime traditions. More than anything, I love that they feel they're not losing anything.
There are a lot of things my children have done that have made me so proud to be their parent, but watching them go through the experience of divorce and being open to the possibilities of a blended family fills me with pride. Knowing that after dinner each night they're going to rush upstairs to settle into bed so a story can be read by a person they've now come to know as their stepparent is amazing.
Every once in awhile, very rarely, I read a quick book to the kids during bedtime. These days, they don't really want me to hijack the night-time reading they've so lovingly handed over to my partner, and to be honest, nothing makes me more proud or happy than watching them carve out space for themselves within a our family. I've never thought more about being in the shoes of a 6 and 7 year old than I have in as we've adjusted to new lives, a new home, and a new routine. There are a lot of things my children have done that have made me so proud to be their parent, but watching them go through the experience of divorce and being open to the possibilities of a blended family fills me with pride. Knowing that after dinner each night they're going to rush upstairs to settle into bed so a story can be read by a person they've now come to know as their stepparent is amazing.
I could say so many things about divorce — from the good parts to the not-so-good parts —but I'm realizing that there will always be new aspects of it that surprise me, change me, and encourage me. Stepping back from role I'd filled as a single parent for years to give the space to my partner has made me look at parenting and family differently. Giving my children a say and including them in our rebuilding and restructuring has only made this process even more special and better for all of us.
Bedtime has never been all that significant to me, but I love what it's done to our home. Bedtime, like it did when my ex and I were still together, holds a lot of magic and meaning for my kids. In our own ways, we're all learning how important it is.