I get a lot of questions from parents wondering about sleep: how to get the kids to sleep, how and when to transition from the family bed (Felix sleeps next to me, of course. Horus and Treva, for the most part, sleep in their bunk beds, but are always welcome to visit us). I think the answers to these questions are very personal. But I also think that in general, going to sleep *must* be calm, and joyful, and without pressure or stress or lonely tears. Night-time rituals are important.
Things sometimes go awry, of course. There are deep discussions as to whether or not the teeth should be brushed on this particular evening. And sometimes we decide that kicking our little sister is a really good idea. But we can usually get back on track. Our ideal good-night involves one big long cuddle, with several stories, culminating with one of our definitive before-sleep books. Our current favourite is Kay Chorao’s “The Baby’s Bedtime Book”, which all 3 kids adore, and which is full of classic poetry, and lullabies which yes, I do sing. Please sing to your babies before bed, because singing our lullabies is a special kind of medicine and we all need the memory of our mother’s tired imperfect voices in our heads before we sleep, don’t we?
After the books and before the songs, we talk about our day: the good, the tough, the sweet and savoury. Remember this part? Weren’t the dogs funny? And that rock you found on our walk. What a beautiful rock that was. Yes. I remember.
It is comforting to parse the day, but also useful: I want to help to teach my children to reflect, and to make their own narrative of their lives–to centre themselves with agency and authenticity within their story, without self-consciousness or performance, or an excess of ego. And (funnily enough) I think this is especially important in our age of performance, performance anxiety, Facebook and yes, blogs. I am just a witness and a gentle facilitator. How did that feel? What do you think we could do about that next time?
Then we have a little prayer: sometimes Rumi, other times St. Francis. They like one particular Apache prayer quite a bit. Then as they are drifting off, I feed them the mantra, softly: Horus, I love you. Dad loves you. Treva loves you, Gramy loves you. Little Treva. I love you. Dad loves you. And then for Felix too, and on and on until they sleep. You are good. You are loved.
Sleep my child and peace attend thee, all through the night. What are some of your favourites ways to facilitate falling asleep?