An unconventional guide to making bedtime more bearable

Bedtime. Somehow it always comes down to me.

Ok. It always comes down to me with the biggest boy. Or with both of them when Stew’s working nights. Or when only I’m good enough for either of them.

Let’s just say bedtime is generally my domain.

I get home from work just before 6pm, start bedtime between 7pm and 7.30pm and don’t get back downstairs until around 8.30pm. So bedtime takes up a fair chunk of my evenings.

Some nights I love it. Laying with one of my boys, reading and singing, then watching as they fall asleep. Or when our biggest boy tells me I’m the best and he loves me.

But some nights when bedtime is endless and “it’s not fair” that I won’t read a fourth story, I just want to be downstairs with a cup of tea and rubbish TV.

For the second kind of night, I’ve come up with a few tips for making bedtime more bearable. Bear with me, they’re not your usual bedtime tips.

1. A bedtime book

Sounds obvious, right? Think again. I’ve got a little bit bored of the same stories – I can recite the Toucan Brothers unprompted, know every word of Kipper, and just can’t face the Star Wars young readers any more. If I’m asked why Luke Skywalker got stuck on the planet Hoth one more time I might just scream (the fact that I even know what Hoth is pains me).

So I’m mixing it up. Me and the biggest boy have started reading the atlas every night … right, I know that sounds dull, but I actually love a good map. We choose a country each night and learn a bit about the people and animals before bed.

The only problem is that the atlas is huge and I usually can’t feel my arms by the end. But it’s helping me to work on my travel bucket list, so you know, you win some you lose some. And I’ll take achy arms over Star Wars any day.

It’s much more fun with the littlest. As he’s pretty much unaware of what I’m reading him, I’ve completely abandoned the children’s stories.

At the moment we’re half way through Shopaholic and Baby, which I’m sure he’s loving. What’s not to love?

Even if shopping isn’t totally his thing, it’s achieving the desired result of him falling asleep. Winning.

2. A bedtime song

Again, this is a tried and tested method of getting your little one to sleep … but is anyone else a bit bored with the old nursery rhymes? Actually, it’s less boredom and more that I don’t know the words to any.

Since our biggest boy was tiny (as tiny as an 8lb 7oz baby can be), I’ve gone for an eclectic mix of tunes from Killers and Ed Sheehan to Frank Turner.

George Ezra was a firm favourite, but recently I’ve had to move on because our biggest boy knows all the words and sings along instead of falling asleep. It’s that or he’s asking me to be the “silly man” in the video (Ian McKellan) who thinks George is called Jeff. Not ideal when your child is in hysterics when they should be sleeping.

This week I realised I really need to watch what I’m singing as he’s listening to every word … if you follow my Facebook page you’ll know why.

Basically, I was happily harmonising my own slowed down version of Pompeii by Bastille (just call me Beyoncé) when he suddenly opened his eyes and asked “why do the walls keep tumbling down in the city that we love?”, which resulted in a long conversation about volcanoes and Vesuvius, and how we weren’t there to watch it erupt thousands of years ago.

I’d never considered that he’s taking in the words to songs he doesn’t know, and it’s made me rethink some of my other regulars … Basketcase by Greenday in particular might pose some difficult questions…

3. Have a nap

If you can’t beat them, join them. Some nights there’s no stopping the conversations from our chatterbox. The only way I can get him to sleep is if I fall asleep myself.

So I squeeze myself into the tiny toddler bed with my knees in my chest, ignore the demands of “stop breathing on me”, close my eyes and go to sleep.

Yes, I wake up half an hour later feeling groggy, with itchy eyes and cramp in my legs but at least he’s drifted off … giving me approximately one hour before I give in and head to bed myself.

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