Whenever I put the kids to bed by myself I internally bemoan, "Whyyyyyyyyyy????" How am I on my third child and I don't have a single one that I can plop into bed, cross a blessing on his or her forehead and twirl right out of the room? I mean, I do know why. I do everything wrong according to this expert. Everything.
If I were to write down everything that goes into bedtime Chez Harrington, it would take too long to finish this post (I mean, come on ... Elise's birth story is advancing at maybe a word a week; prolific is not my name). So in hopes of brevity, the opposite of our bedtimes, I'll focus on my favorite part of bedtime.
It's definitely rarely peaceful, but it's definitely always needed. When I'm doing it by myself, odds are I will lose my temper at least half the time or talk through my teeth as Conor so perfectly mimics. So yes, it is definitely always needed.
Chris and I kneel down. Sometimes I'm nursing Elise, sometimes she is on Conor's trundle. The boys religiously scale our backs and fall and then give it another go. I'm normally the consolation prize for whomever loses the fight to get on Chris' back. They stay there for a variable amount of time; eventually they are hopping around and around with some fighting tossed in. We make the sign of the cross; Conor just taps his belly four times. Chris shares all of his intentions, which are always so well thought out and humble and honest and pillar-ly, and I rattle off mine. Then we ask, "Ryan, what do you want to pray for?" A third of the time he replies, "I don't know," grumpily. Another third of the time, he will list a compilation of random thoughts that go through a four year old's head. The rest of the time he prays, "Thank you God for my family, for Daddy, for Mama, for Conor, for Elise. I love you, God!" Then we ask, "Conor, what do you want to pray for?" He always replies, "Pway Notre Dame!" Which could mean that he wants to pray for the university or the football team or he is theologically advanced for a two year old and understands that Notre Dame is French for Our Lady and he is asking the Blessed Virgin Mary for her intercession but choosing to refer to her as Notre Dame. Pretty sure it's the second option. Then I ask Elise what she wants to pray for, and the boys laugh and remind me that she can't talk yet. But that doesn't mean she can't pray!
Then we sing. When Ryan was little, we used to meet our friends at the bookstore on campus for story time. The lady who led it was amazingly enthusiastic, and at the end of every story time, she would lead the children in the same fifteen or so songs. One day I overheard her explaining that there were so many songs because she kept trying new songs, but the kids wanted to do all of them instead of just a few each time so the list just grew, and there was no going back. That's pretty much how it is with us. We sing four songs at bedtime.
First, we start off singing the Our Father. Second, we sing a very simple Ave Maria, the way Chris' mom sings it during family rosary. Third, we sing the Antiphon from the Canticle of Simeon, "Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake. Watch over us, as we sleep. That awake, we may keep watch with Christ. And asleep, rest in His peace." Chris first heard it when he attended Lucernarium at the seminary on campus once, and it's been our lullaby ever since. It's such a beautiful one. I'll always remember holding Conor on my hip, Ryan on Chris' and the four (five with Elise in my belly) of us singing it to Grandma Harrington as our final goodbye before we put the boys to bed on the last night of her wake. Both boys sang every syllable.
And fourth, we sing the alma mater. The boys never let us forget that one, and we take it away if they don't pay attention during the first three.
(I'm realizing that it's a bit comical that we take away the alma mater as a disciplinary action. Maybe the boys should put that down on their admissions essays ...).
Then Ryan gives Conor a hug, "I love you, Conor!" And Conor gives Ryan a hug, "I love you, Wyan." It's a chorus of "I love you, Dada!" "I love you, Mama!" "I love you, Wise!"
When we aren't out of holy water, Chris blesses everyone and then the boys insist on blessing everyone, too. This is a good card to play when you are young and trying to extend bedtime because how can your mom get mad when you are tapping her head, "Fada! Don! Howy Pirit! AMEN!"?