We started our bedtime routine with Maddie at a very young age. I think she was only a few weeks old when we started bathing her every night, doing baby massage/lotion etc afterwards in a desperate attempt to make her understand that this meant "bedtime" and bedtime meant "sleep".
As she got older the routine expanded - books + bedtime bottle + rocking chair cuddles were added. When we changed her room over to "big girl" status, we got rid of the bottle + rocking chair - but somehow more books were added to the routine and a sippy cup of milk became a requirement.
It got to the point that it was taking almost an hour from start to finish to "do" bedtime. Which meant we needed to get started by 7:15 at the very latest to get her down for 8pm.
That was - until last week. You see - Maddie spent the past two weeks at Gramma V's. And god bless her heart (because thank you to any grandparent that will take an almost-3-year-old for an extended visit!)... but now we have a toddler with a 10pm bedtime, who wants her overhead light to be on all night and who is demanding about a thousand books to be read to her before night-night.
And that? Makes for an almost two hour bedtime routine. And we were thinking one hour was excessive.
So the past five days since being home, we have been working on ridding Maddie of these habits.
First to go was the overhead light being on. (Sidebar on this: not sure how or why, but Maddie developed a fear of the dark during her stay in Kingston. Which meant she asked for the overhead light to be put on before going to bed. Which then meant she either woke up to bright shining light at 4am and wanted to play, or woke up to it being turned off sometime before the adults went to bed and screamed bloody murder for it to be turned back on. It was..... in a word.... NOT fun). I wasn't about to let her get into this same habit at home - I figured if we had any chance of getting rid of this habit, it would be in her own room, where she felt most comfortable and where I felt most comfortable letting her cry if she didn't like it. It took one night to break this habit.
The additional books in the routine were a little harder - but we've just been consistently firm - she gets a total of 3 books ONLY and she chooses which books these will be before getting into bed. There have been tears and tantrums about more books, but again, with us holding firm she seems to be getting the picture that we're not giving her an endless supply of stories at bedtime.
And the last little wrinkle is moving the bedtime back up to where it needs to be. This has been trickier - and she can fight (oh she can fight) going to bed like no one's business. Requests for more milk, a glass of water, one more story, just one more kiss, a hug from daddy, please mommy - don't leave me here... we've heard it all. And being told that "Please don't leave Mommy, I miss you" is a bit heart-breaking when you need to walk away.
But the temper tantrums have been epic. There have been time-outs. There have been cry-it-outs. There was even one small (diapered bum) spanking administered by Daddy. (Yes, I can't believe I'm even admitting it out here in blogspace - let the vultures now rip me to shreds) But we're making progress. She went to sleep last night by 9pm with barely a complaint. If we can shave another 1/2 hour off in the next week, we'll be back to normal (since 8:30 is acceptable in the lighter days of summer)...
Here's my question to the moms out there though ... how long is your bedtime routine? What does it involve? Are we insane to be happy enough with a 45 minute routine that includes 3 books? Or is that normal? (Is anything really normal?) ... tell me peeps... I want to hear your opinion on this.