Now Please Go to Sleep

November 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

The best parenting advice I ever received—and didn’t listen to—came when I was in the throes of sleep training my six month old. The advice was: “Make sure you pick a short bedtime ritual, because you’ll be doing it for a long time.” Of course, when you’re knee-deep in sleep deprivation, it’s not easy to see into the future and predict that five years later, your son will still expect a book, water, two songs (one being a made-up “Curious George” song, don’t ask), a hug, a kiss, and a very involved tucking in of the covers every single night.

We all get wiser the second time around; and consequently, I have a five year old who takes 45 minutes to put to bed, and a two year old who takes 45 seconds. But one thing remains the same: I love a good bedtime story.

The best bedtime stories are filled with gentle, lulling rhymes; jewel-toned illustrations; and ample opportunities for whispers and kisses (see my full list at the end of this post). The witching hours of dinner and bath time behind us, pajamas donned and teeth brushed, our collective bodies relax as the first words are read. No matter what madness has just transpired in the moments leading up to this one, peace is now restored; those big juicy bonds of love can flow freely once more (because, let’s face it, it’s almost over).

Recently, Emily has fallen in love with Tell Me About Your Day Today (Ages 2-4), a newly published treasure by the fantastic and prolific Australian author, Mem Fox, with rich acrylic paintings by Lauren Stringer. It makes me chuckle when reading this to my daughter because it reminds me so much of her older brother: the story is about “a boy who loved bedtime,” from “the last kiss” to the “last story” to the “last good night.” Ironically, what the boy loves most is the moment when the bedtime ritual ends, when his mom departs and he can debrief the day with his beloved stuffed goose, horse, and rabbit (so this is what our kids are doing when we hear them muttering incoherently to themselves upstairs in their rooms!) Even the text itself has a kind of ritualistic feel, as the boy begins each whispered conversation the same way: “Greedy Goose…tell me about your day today.”

Mem Fox never wastes a word, and here her carefully crafted text can only be fully comprehended with the help of Stringer’s accompanying illustrations. “And Greedy Goose told him about her day—the who, the what, the why, and the way…the whole wild thing…turned out okay.” We read this refrain four times throughout the story, as bit by bit the illustrations reveal the story of the boy’s day with his stuffed animals—a day involving a thunderstorm, a tea party, some puddle jumping, and a Band-aid applied where a rabbit’s tail once was. I can’t think of a better mantra to read to a child before bed. Their days, like our days, are filled with highs and lows, with victories and disappointments, with worries and reassurances. At the end of the day, we get to put it all aside and close our eyes. Now, please go to sleep.

Other Favorites about Bedtime and Sleep:
Time for Bed, by Mem Fox & Jane Dyer (Ages 0-3)
The Going to Bed Book, by Sandra Boynton (Ages 0-3)
Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown (Ages 0-3)
Goodnight Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann (Ages 1-4)
I’ll See You in the Morning, by Mike Jolley & Mique Moriuchi (Ages 1-4)
I Took the Moon for a Walk, by Carolyn Curtis & Alison Jay (Ages 2-5)
Grandfather Twilight, by Barbara Helen Berger (Ages 2-5)
A Book of Sleep, by Il Sung Na (Ages 2-4)
The Goodnight Train, by June Sobel & Laura Huliska-Beith (Ages 2-4)
Tell Me the Day Backwards, by Albert Lamb & David McPhail (Ages 2-5)

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