commonalities that all families share.
On the other hand, bedtime rituals are much more likely to be distinctly individual and uniquely yours.
Take my two year old, Claire, and me. We have a nightly ritual that I love to call our own. Indeed, she doesn't even share it with her father at bedtime.
I don’t know how our nightly ritual started or who started it….
We lie down together in the quiet time between day and night. Claire is all snug in her Dora PJ's with that freshly-washed baby shampoo smell. She looks at me wide-eyed and begins with the same expression each night, “Let’s talk about the day, mama!”
I always say back, “OK, would you like to go or should I?”
Sometimes, she details her favorite part of the day first; sometimes, she wants me to share; sometimes, she asks me to guess what hers is.
When I guess, I’m often wrong. To my surprise and delight, she doesn’t pick the piece of cake at Uncle Ben’s birthday (my kid loves cake even more than most kids, if that’s even possible to imagine). Instead, she says that her favorite thing was seeing Aunt Ana and JuJu (her cousin Julian).
I love that she picks people over cake. I love hearing her talk about her day -- even when I've been around for most of it.
Then, she asks me to share my favorite part of the day.
I want to say, “Right here. Right now.” I want to say, “This time that we share is by far the best part of my day.”
I doubt she’d understand, so I usually pick something like “cake”, instead. Anyway, I’m not really sure whether it’s important what we say. What's important is that Claire and I do the same thing every night.
Our nightly ritual is about more than relaying the facts of the day. It's how we bring the day to a close, how we mark the transition from day to night. We stand outside of ourselves and outside of time. My daughter comes into focus, and I forget my silly circumstances -- the sink full of dishes and the bills waiting to be paid.
It's our time to reflect, Claire and me. We slow down. We stop and listen. We find each other in quiet, in-between moments.
A ritual has the power to sustain relationships across time. Its continuity affirms our loyalty to one another, despite the exigencies of the day. Our commitment to it, night after night or day after day, becomes something bigger than each of us.
Yes, the bedtime ritual that my daughter and I share is the best part of my day. Beats cake. Hands down.
Do you have rituals with your kids? When and how do they resonate in your life?
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