There are lot of things we HAVE to do to get our kids ready for bed. There’s teeth to brush, diapers to put on, jammies to locate, bottles to fill, stories to read, lovies to find from the far reaches of the house, and of course, the stalling, which is some innate child delay mechanism for sleep.
All of this in my head takes 6 minutes, max, but in reality takes a lot closer to 20 minutes or more (I know, I timed it last night and the night before and the night before….) (and MORE?! seriously? What are they brushing each tooth individually? It’s a baby tooth. It’s gonna fall out. Let’s get this moving. Mama is tirrrrrrrred.)
There may be nights when we forego the PJ’s in lieu of comfort in the humidity. There may be nights when the stories are cut short or simply not read. And there may be nights, when, *gasp* the teeth don’t get brushed to get everyone off to bed as quickly as possible when we’re out past bedtime.
But there is one thing we do before bedtime that we never miss.
The Three Most Important Minutes Before Bed Time
The last thing we do before our kiddos go to bed is to pray with them. We say a memorized prayer that they heard as soon as they started going to bed (so like the first day) as well as a blessing, the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 22, and as they’ve gotten older, we’ve encouraged them to say things that we’re thankful for, asking Jesus to be with specific friends, and asking for help with specific things we have coming up.
In case this is your first time here, I just want you to know that we are NOT perfect parents. If there was a video camera on us as we did bedtime you would laugh, you would cry, you would breathe deep sighs from all of the dawdling (ok, maybe those last two things are just me), and you would see how perfectly ordinary we are. There are wiggles, giggles, hugs, time spent in the corner – bedtime is just as mundane and miraculous as every other part of our lives.
But back when our oldest was drifting off to sleep in her little bassinet, we decided we wanted to start praying with her at bed time. We kind of looked at each other like “how do we best do that” and the prayer my mom and dad said with me when I was a little girl came pouring out.
Then, not too long later, we read a book that we absolutely love that mentioned the Priestly Blessing as a way to speak a blessing over our children, and we added that to the end of our prayer time.
As our children have learned how to say the memorized prayer, we encourage them to start prayer time with some things that they are thankful for about their day, and then growing that skill and faith discipline of praying on their own.
None of this has happened overnight. We’ve been parents for almost 5 years and we’re always working to encourage our kids in their prayer time and help them grow in that, and also, honestly, to grow in it ourselves to be a model for them.
But there is no doubt in my mind that this prayer and blessing time is the three most important minutes before bed time.
The days are long. The nights, like the years, are so short. Some days, when 8 pm rolls around, I feel like I have nothing left to give, nothing in me to get me through bedtime. It becomes just another chore on my checklist.
But this blessing, this prayer, this teaching of our children to pray, shouldn’t be another checklist item or something we say without really thinking of the power of the words. (I’m talking to myself now. I need this reminder.)
These three important minutes are what send my children off to bed. Save for a few kisses and hugs “I love you”s and “Sleep well”s, they are the last words they hear each night.
This request I’m offering to God on their behalf isn’t like our normal prayer time. Instead, it’s spoken over them, as if I’m lifting them up, one last time for the day, to the God who loves them more than I do, more than I can fathom, more than I can ask or imagine.
And that is the best way I can imagine to spend the last three minutes of our day together.
What does your bedtime routine look like?