The moment I turn the lights off and snuggle between my 4- and 6-year-old daughters is the second all the tea-spilling starts. “Hey Mom, guess what happened at school today,” is code for here come all the stories. Bedtime is when kids are most likely to open up and talk about what is going on in their young lives, whether Fiona decided not to play with Christopher, or Aya monopolized the bubble wand, or Nina claimed to be on first-name terms with all the ducks. It's the time I find out who the girls' friends are, what is weighing on their minds from days ago, and the full and complex vision they have of their upcoming birthday party.
Bedtime is a struggle for this mama because everything is a rush. We have a strict bedtime routine in place for our girls, which consists of bath time, brushing teeth, story time, and lights out. But now we’ve worked in some extra time for catching-mom-up-on-the-daily-happenings. I know they should be going to sleep instead of talking to me, but to be honest, I live for these moments. There are some days when it feels like everything is a negotiation, from clothing to food, to how many toys to take on a play date. So when they open the door and allow me a sneak peek into their lives, I’m here for it.
Mylee Zschech, child sleep and behavior consultant at Little Big Dreamers, explains that there are several reasons why children open up during bedtime.
“The bedtime routine brings a feeling of intimacy, of closeness with your parents, which can make a child feel more inclined to open up,” Zschech tells Romper. “The other aspect is that while children are doing something else, for example, getting on their PJs or having a bath, they might feel more comfortable to open up because they aren’t feeling like eyes are directly on them, which lessens the likelihood of feeling self-consciousness.”
If there is something that is really bothering your child, then you should listen.
Of course children may also be using it as a stall tactic to delay having to actually go the eff to sleep. Luckily, I can decipher a “real” conversation from a stall tactic now that I’ve had plenty of experience. I mean, my first grader can lay it on thick if she feels there was an injustice that she wants righted. But I know better than to try and solve a major problem like trying to explain why I won't allow her to spend all her cash on a huge Lego set during bedtime. In instances such as these, I promise to set time aside the next day when we both aren’t tired so we can talk it out and figure out a plan.
“They may be trying to stall bedtime, but sharing their feelings are important too. Find another time for this. Maybe after dinner or right after you get home. Set aside a special time to talk or have them write down what they want to share so it can be addressed at a more appropriate time,” says Dr. Heather Felton, M.D., FAAP, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Louisville, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “If there is something that is really bothering your child, then you should listen. It is also OK to say that there isn't anything they can do about it now. Make a note of it, write it down and make a plan to talk about it the next day when you will be able to devote more time to it.”
If I had asked my girls to hold their stories for morning I’m not sure if I would have learned about the day my preschooler captured a daddy longlegs in a paper cup.
For us, it meant setting bedtime in action at an earlier time to account for these nightly convos. We stick to a bedtime routine that allows for some late-night chatting while ensuring they get their much-needed sleep. And let me tell you, setting time aside for these talks is so worth it.
If I had asked my girls to hold their stories for morning I’m not sure if I would have learned about the day my preschooler captured a daddy longlegs in a paper cup and had to tell her friends not to step on it. Or been able to help my 6-year-old negotiate friendship drama that was happening that week.
It was only a few years ago when my daughters relied on me to be able to go to sleep. And the transition tears me up. Of course I complained about never getting enough sleep because I had to wake up to nurse or had to learn to sleep sitting up because they refused to sleep in their bassinet then crib, but I loved being near them. They used to need me to snuggle up in bed with them, one on each side of me, the warmth of their bodies would cause me to break out in a sweat, but they slept soundly. Now, they don’t need me to stay asleep but it seems they still need me to listen to them before they drift off.
There’s so much unloading that happens when my girls lay down to go to bed, and it’s the time when I feel like I’m finally reconnecting with them. The moment right when their heavy little minds unload the myriad lessons from their day is the best part of mine.
For more pieces like this, visit Shiny Happies, our collection of the best parts of raising those little people you love.