Nearly every night I rock my littlest guy and snuggle him to get him all sleepy before putting him in his crib for the night. While he is my littlest guy he’s not so little anymore. He takes up my whole lap, his chubby little legs get shoved into the corners of the rocking chair, and his head falls high enough on my shoulder that he needs his blanket there to lay on so he doesn’t hurt his neck. His arms constantly squeeze my neck, run fingers through my hair, or rub my ears. I can feel the whole weight of him on my chest. I feel the stillness of the air in his room and the hazy darkness that comes from using blackout curtains for early bedtimes in the summer months. I typically whisper to him how he’s my favorite almost two year old in the whole world and say a prayer for the adults he and his brothers will grow into. I give him about 10,000 kisses on his forehead, nose, and little hands thinking about all of the things those little hands did today and what they’ll do tomorrow.
Rocking little men before bed has been one of my favorite parts of motherhood. It allows me to re-center, reconnect, and appreciate all of the little joys throughout the day. It also allows me some perspective to appreciate what the not so joyful moments might have be moving us toward. On particularly hard days it offers solitude and quiet where I can focus on one thing (snuggles obviously) and rock and breathe as long as I need to. I can still feel each of them and how they snuggled differently. How they each felt as tiny infants swaddled in my arms, to lanky and clumsy toddlers who still want to “rock-o”. The big guys grew, and no longer needed to rock, but still need snuggles. We still lay with them at night and now they get to be involved in the reflection of the day and thoughts of the future. Not every night is perfect and there are some times that yelling and tears (from both sides) prevail.
Last night as I was going through this time myself so I had separate time with each kid I started to consider, What is it that I like about that part of the day? I mean obviously there is a small man to hold and talk with, which is amazing, but that’s not all. There are plenty of times throughout the day and evening that I have a small man to hold and I do not feel all the feels I do at bed time. During that window I am calm and patient. I can consider and discuss what went well for the day and what didn’t. I can affirm my kids and help them dream of what comes next (sometimes it’s earning money for a toy, future career aspirations of buying a farm or working construction, or working with the princess to escape the evil witch).
Most nights at bed time, not all because of the nights of tears and whisper yelling threats of what will happen if anyone wakes the baby, I am the best version of my mom self during that time. What causes that part of the day to be different? What am I getting out of it? Could it be that my kids are different about that time of day? Is it about the one-on-one time? Am I just so tired at the end of the day from being a full time working wife and mother that I’m just out of it by then? There are some people who would read this and say, Just enjoy and leave it alone. Why dissect all of the good moments? I want to understand the all of the moments but especially the great ones. Once I understand it, how much more can I appreciate it and create more of it throughout the day?
After several years of enjoying these moments, there seem to be a few causes that make this time more magical than the other times of the day. The good news is that it has nothing to do with the time.
Focus. One of the great things about that time is that it allows me to really spend time thinking about my children. I am not distracted by my to-do list, my phone, how many steps I should be taking, if the dog got fed recently, on and on. I get to just get to notice the little belly moving in and out as he takes each breath. When we’re 100% all in in one area or with one person we can truly invest there in a way that we can’t if there is anything else going on. I am the queen of thinking I can multitask (which I do know is a myth but I will prove it wrong some day) and in the end neither of the things I set out to do are done well. Prioritizing and focusing on one thing at a time allows for much greater reward and benefit in that area.
Reflection. It is no secret that I believe there is great power in reflection. Understanding where you come from does immeasurable things for propelling you where you’re going. We so often think of that on a large scale. You reflect on your childhood relationships to better understand and navigate your adult relationships. I mean, yeah, that is a thing, but you can do that on the small scale too. I reflect on the past day, or hour, or even the conversation that was just had moments ago. Did that work the way I intended? Was I clear in my thoughts and how I communicated them? Did I teach what I set out to teach? Having a time for consistent, frequent, and honest reflection has aided me in so many different ways.
Dreaming. There is power in allowing yourself to dream. We foster this in our kids, and I certainly do at bed time, but we often stop dreaming ourselves around the time we “settle down”. For many that is having kids themselves or it could be settling into a lifestyle, career, or way of thinking. I have always been a dreamer but I think that it became such a passion to help my kids hold on to that skill that I ended up holding more closely to my own. For example, we ask our kids what they want to do when they grow up and they list a minimum of 3 careers, where they’ll live, how many kids they’ll have, and what they’re hobbies will be. I have seen kids ask their parents what they want to do when they grow up and the parent gives an age appropriate explanation of what their job is along with some sarcasm around how it’s really living the dream. That tells the kid that dreaming has to end and not because all of your dreams came true, because you settled for the fact that they won’t. It doesn’t have to end. You can make them happen. Now, if the dream is dinosaur hunting in Midwest farm land (like my five year old) you may need to adjust just a little, but don’t take the dream away from them. Help them make it so real in their minds that they can’t help but work toward it.
The reason I love that time of day (most days) is because I am at my best. I am acting as the mom I want to be. I am acting as the person I want to be. Being at your best is not exclusive to raising children, or the time of day. (If you’re close to strangling your children, spouse, pet, etcetera, at bed time, maybe look for another option.) Find a time that works, some good focus music, and do these three things for yourself. You can focus on one assignment at work, reflecting on prior feedback you got, and dream of where a pile of these successful assignments is going to propel you in your career one day. You can take time to focus on your spouse reflecting on what they have been going through resulting in what they might want or need and plan for tomorrow. You also can do this 100% solo. Take time to focus on yourself. Really do the work to understand the inputs that are creating who you are. Reflecting on how you were raised, what you’ve learned in your social circles, and what your natural biases are. Then, muse about what you want to be in the future. What does living your best life look like? What does being your best look like? Remember to make it so real in your mind that you can’t help but work toward it.
Things I’m reminding myself of
Continue to enjoy this time and don’t try to change it. My intent in discovering what makes this time great is just as I said, a way to increase those opportunities in other areas of life. It is not a means of gaining productivity in this area. I will not change this to being a check list for how I should do bed time (or any other part of life) nor will I set arbitrary future goals for the boys (or myself) as a result. I’m pretty good at taking things to the next level and that is not the purpose of this so I need to talk myself through not doing this.
Make having a time for daily reflection a priority. So far my reflection has really centered around my children which is great, however, taking time to reflect on a more broad scale will help to encompass my full being. After all I am not just a mom. I want to learn from and understand all areas of life so why not start with reflecting on them as a whole?
Dreaming can be hard if it isn’t a muscle you work often. It seems to be easier to do it for or with other people first. In times when it has been difficult for me to think through I start asking other people (sometimes my kids, friends, my husband) what they see for themselves in the future. If you had a second act (or a third or fourth), what would it look like?