Recently a new mom asked me about our bedtime routine. I laughed a little bit louder than perhaps I should have. I may have spit out my coffee. Actually, I'm sure I did.
I do remember - vaguely - something ten years or so ago that involved a bath and candles, sweet songs and stories, infant massage and a whole lot of quiet. Now, the hours between dinner and the moment when Steve and I finally crash into bed ourselves resemble something more of a 3-ring circus, complete with flying trapeze and more clowns than I can find pajamas. Add in a tube of toothpaste emptied onto the floor, and spying escaped turkeys out the bathroom window, and well, it's a bonafide zoo. It's five (tired) children and two (tired) adults...what more can one expect?
Ride the circus wheel, indeed.
I began to feel a little badly about said 'routine' as I was speaking with her. You know, the whole lack of rhythm and ritual that I deem so very important in our days. (Mama guilt, it rears its ugly head when you least expect it.) But I thought a little bit longer about it, and that night, at bedtime, I looked around. From room to room, surely things were different than they were six months ago, and different, likely, than they will be six months from now. New readers are added to the bunch all the time, naptimes (and therefore bedtime readiness) changes each week, farm chores sometimes creep into the hours of people bedtime, and the light changes along with us all.
But, despite all those differences, I was comforted by what remains the same - what has always stayed the same. Love (lots of it) and Stories (many of them). The reader may change from year to year or night to night, even...but there is a 'reader' each night nonetheless. Mama, Papa, big brother, (eventually) big sister, and self. Side by side, solo reading, three in a bed, four on a bed and one on the floor, and every other combination possible. Stories stay constant, and remain the loveliest way to drift into slumberland.
Tonight after the five littlest Soules were finally asleep, I wandered from bedside to bedside and took note of what each one was reading. For fun, I present to you my findings:
~ How many times can one read the Harry Potter series? Countless, says Calvin! And so, I find book seven on his bed once again.
~ Ezra's bed had no less than five books keeping him company as the case usually is - one tucked under each arm, one on his lap, one under the pillow, and one - the last one he was reading before dozing off - open flat on his face (removing it without waking him up reminds me every night of the game Operation). On his bed, I found The Sea of Monsters, Travels of Thelonious, an old Peanuts comic book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and Harriet the Spy.
~ Adelaide's preferred bedtime reading at the moment is a chapter of Pippi (we love that Lauren Child version) read by one of her brothers, followed by a tale from James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small read by Mama or Papa.
~ Next to Harper's bed, I found our very worn out (second!) copy of Seven Silly Eaters - such a family favorite (that, between Steve and I, we have memorized and find ourselves reciting from time to time - it just fits big family life so well). The excitement of that book was followed that night by reading I Took the Moon for a Walk. Which was followed by "just one more!" book - Harold the Fire Fighter, written by Ezra especially for his little brother.
~ And last but not least of the littles, Miss Annabel, who is quite delighted to snuggle up next to one of her big brothers for a song or story while Mama or Papa are busy with someone else. Ezra says she prefers Peanuts to Calvin and Hobbs. (I quite agree.) But when they - and we - remember that she's just a little baby, I think she likes Marla Frazee's Hush Little Baby most of all.
There's comfort to be found in the 3-ring circus that is our bedtime. And a whole pile of stories, too.