Monday, March 17, 2014

Intentional and Unintentional Routines

I spotted Honest Toddler's post on How To Put A Toddler To Bed in 100 Easy Steps on Facebook today and had a good chuckle, especially at number 75. But it also got me thinking about how routines are formed. Our oldest is 4, and does a great job emulating the post linked above. A bedtime show followed by stories in one location followed by three more stories in another location followed by a snack and a drink and brushing teeth and more get the idea. the bedtime routine for our youngest is still forming, as he's only 13 months, and it's interesting to see what things we mean to add, and what things just sort of -- happen.

One part is purely intentional. Both my wife and I love the book by Sandra Boynton titled "The Going to Bed Book." We read it nightly to our oldest when he was learning to sleep, and we continued the tradition with our youngest.

It's a very sweet poem that details a bedtime routine. I love that it has a rather detailed rhyme and meter, as well, which made it fun to memorize:

"The sun has set not long ago
So, everybody goes below
To take a bath in one big tub
With soap all over -- scrub, scrub, scrub!
They hang their towels on the wall
And find pajamas, big and small.
With some on top and  some beneath
They brush and brush and brush their teeth.
And when the moon is on the rise
They all go up to exercise!
And down once more, but not so fast
They're on their way to bed at last.
The day is done, they say 'Goodnight,'
And somebody turns out the light.
The moon is high, the sea is deep,
They rock, and rock, and rock to sleep"

I love the wholesome simplicity of the poem with the clear images and repetitive language. It always seems to calm our boys down (unless they don't want to go to bed, then it can have the opposite effect).

On the other hand, some routines seem to spring from desperation and unintended actions. When our youngest was an infant, he would wake often during the night (he actually still does this now, but we pretend it's different). Once, in desperation to get him calmed down, I started singing to him. The first song that popped into my head was "Kiss Me, Son of God" by They Might be Giants. The lyrics in this case, make quite a contrast to the Boynton poem:

"I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage 
Called the blood of the exploited working class 
But they've overcome their shyness 
Now they're calling me Your Highness 
And a world screams, 'Kiss me, Son of God'
I destroyed a bond of friendship and respect Between the only people left who'd even look me in the eye  Now I laugh and make a fortune Off the same ones that I tortured And a world screams, 'Kiss me, Son of God'
I look like Jesus, so they say But Mr. Jesus is very far away Now you're the only one here who can tell me if it's true That you love me and I love me
I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage Called the blood of the exploited working class But they've overcome their shyness Now they're calling me Your Highness And a world screams, 'Kiss me, Son of God' Yes a world screams, 'Kiss me, Son of God'"
So, of course, my youngest loved it. He drifted off to sleep immediately. I sing it to him almost daily. I like to think that the lyrics don't affect him (or if they do, that he also has a finely tuned sense of irony), but part of me worries my youngest will grow up to become a heartless dictator. One who, at least, knows how to brush his teeth and go to bed.
Thanks, sleep deprivation.


  1. We have a bed time story that I dread when the kids pick it. It's called "crack in the track" and it rhymes but not all the way through. The worse part is they throw in story plots that don't make since only to rhyme. At one point there is a toad in the road that causes a bus to stop and the people have to find a new means of transport. They don't simple drive around the toad or just move it off the road. If rhyming is so important to the author couldn't they have put in the effort to make the whole story rhyme?

  2. We have that book! I hate it. It has one good page in it. "No trains could move up and no trains could move back. They were stuck where they were at that crack in the track."

    I feel like they started with that perfect page and worked out from there.

  3. For about 8 months Mason decided dad could only tell him the 3 little pigs, and only I could tell him goldy locks. no other stories, no books just those 2. I remember falling asleep mid sentence a million times.