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Monday, May 08, 2006

The Five B's: The Easy Way to do Bedtime



Somewhere early on with my daughter I made a not all that astute oberservation about the bedtime ritual: It is a ritual. And like most rituals, there can be a soothing, gentle and even fun quality to bedtime. Or it can be like sacrificing a lamb. Not fun, unless you're twisted.

The Important Stuff

The five B's are simple and can pretty much go in any order, though I usually follow this one:

1. have a BATH
2. BRUSH teeth
3. go to the BATHROOM
4. read a BOOK
5. drink a BOTTLE ("BUBBA")

With young children (0-3) you've pretty much got to walk your kid through it – unless you're some sort of Montessori “my child was swimming at 8 months, reading by 16 months” sort of delicate genius. Between 3 and 4 you’ve got to be regularly training the babes to do some things on their own, such as putting pajamas on, having a poo/pee, and choosing a story. While they’re doing this you can be getting the bottle ready, tidying up the kitchen/bedroom if you’re like me there’s only a 50/50 chance that the bed’s been made up.

The Details

1. Regarding having a bath, here’s what I think: Why bother? My daughter’s four; if she doesn’t want a bath, I give her the option of having a shower with me in the morning. Let’s face it, it takes less time that way and she comes out cleaner. Some dad’s don’t feel comfortable having a shower with their kids, and that’s fine, too. Do the bath thing. Just don’t leave a child who can’t swim alone in the tub. Bathtime is a good time to play with your child. It’s also a great time for your child to play alone. So you may want to bring a book, just in case.

2. Brushing teeth at least twice every day is a no brainer. Unless you like blowing hard earned dough on your kid’s braces and your dentist’s new Lexus, make sure they do it. Do it for them until they’ve got the idea. Once they’re doing it themselves, look closely at their teeth from time to time – are they clean? If not, help them improve. As for flossing, well, you know.

3. My daughter always used to want me to be there when she went to the bathroom. By about age 3, she was going alone, and would often not even bother to tell me when she was dropping the kids off at the pool, but then would call out, at the top of her lungs, “I’m READY!” After badgering her for months to wipe on her own, I finally started answering the “I’m ready!” with “Ok, go ahead.” Maia would go silent for a moment, and then say, “Come on, Dad. I’m ready. Wipe my bum.” To which I’d answer, “Nah. You do it. You’ll like it – it’s fun.” Though I did teach her a few times the technique of wiping that I use, she seemed to figure it out on her own.

Here's a link that deals with newborns -- from butt wiping to soothing. Handy stuff for new parents.

(NOTE for parents of girls: I once watched Maia wiping after a poop and she was going from the back to the front. Major no-no. Wiping poo from cute little butt to “pooty” (ie. Vagina) can cause a urinary tract infection.)

4. Reading is a no-brainer, too. If you don’t do it, you risk having a child who can’t read well later on. This can kill their self-esteem and they’ll probably end up the kind of parent who doesn’t read to their kid. Also, take your time. Ask your kids if you’re reading too fast. They’ll tell you when you are.

If you have one child, I recommend that you each select a book. Kids often pick something fluffy. You should be picking something fun but educational and appropriate to their reading/listening level. If you want to read crap to them, expect them to be reading crap when they’re 35 and managing a McDonalds.

If you have two or more kids, let them each pick a book.

5. Bottles. Bubbas. Sippy cups. Milk. Soy milk. Rice milk. Breast milk. I know a woman who, last time I spoke to her, had two kids, 7 and 4 I believe, and was still breastfeeding both. That may be “fucking weird” as some have said. Perhaps it’s the right thing. I don’t know. What’s right for you as a parent is what your conscience tells you. The truth. We balance our child’s health with our beliefs and the norms of the culture we own. I feed Maia a bottle of warm cow milk at bedtime. I usually ask her if she wants some beer milk too, just for kicks.

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