Monday, February 2, 2015

Bedtime Stories: Healing Relationships in Our Home

Rough Day

Photo Credit
It was a long day. You know the kind. The to-do list was unmanageable to begin with and somehow grew as the hours passed. My youngest two had been bickering from the get-go. “He took my rhino costume!” “He won’t stop singing!” “I was gonna be the blue ninja first!” I had had it. They had had it. Thankfully it was getting dark outside- bedtime was fast approaching. We put on P.J.’s, brushed teeth and said prayers. I told them to go upstairs and go to sleep. My four year old said what he always says at bedtime, “I can never sleep without bedtime stories” in his sweetest, most imploring voice. (Not at all like the voice I heard just moments before as he yelled at his brother for using the toothpaste first).

Books and the Brother Bond

I didn’t want to read stories. I wanted to clean up from dinner, write a paper for class, help my daughter with her homework, persuade the older boys to get in the shower, or any number of other things. Then it dawned on me: my first grader can read now. Relieved, I told him he should read to his brother tonight. Surprisingly, they both turned around, heads and shoulders drooping, and trudged upstairs. As I loaded the dishes and wiped the food from the counters I thought of articles about how important it is to read to your child (articles like this and this) valuable articles from Reading Is Fundamental, for example, that scientifically prove the merits of reading for a young child’s development of language and literacy. I thought about what a privilege it is to end the day in quiet, tender moments sharing books. Was I really so busy I couldn't spare ten minutes to read to my babies? Was I really that tired? Reading is not something I have to do but something I get to do as a parent. I made my way upstairs to find this:

I caught my breath as a single tear released the day’s stress. Of all the benefits of reading to my children, perhaps the most important is what it does to strengthen our bond. Books and language connect us. As we draw our children close and share a story, the hard moments melt away. We can make story time a healing time. It is an opportunity to set all else aside and say to our children “You matter more than all that other stuff I have to do.” I was delighted to realize that the magic of story time was working on their relationship too. No more arguments, no grudges, all was forgotten in the joy of the bedtime story.  

Worth Every Word

The beauty of parenting is in the contrasts. This moment could never have been so precious were it not for the difficult day. I live for these moments. I seek them out and try to remind myself when I find them that this is what it is all for. In the midst of the parenting chaos, genuine connection matters most. And every story is important.

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