We had not had a regular family bedtime for the last six nights. Some out of town travel, firework shows, and staying up a bit later had thrown off our usual nighttime routine of books, counting, ABC’s, and prayers. Tonight was the night it was all going to go back to normal, and it was going to start with the book, Goodnight Moon.
Just minutes earlier, we were looking through a sticker book, and I was ready to shift gears and start getting the boys settled down and ready for bed. As I started to read Goodnight Moon, I realized that no one was listening. The boys were in the room with me, but neither of them were paying attention to Goodnight Moon. They were still in the mode of playing with the sticker book.
At first, I tried to gain their attention by including them in the process. “Hey boys, it’s time to start reading our book. Come over here and let’s read it together.” When that failed, I tried warning them with a consequence, “Alright boys, if we don’t pay attention to this book, we will have to skip books and go right to bed.”
At this point, I caught myself getting a bit frustrated. It sounds silly, but I was starting to feel like the boys didn’t respect me. I felt like the boys were choosing the sticker book over spending time with me and respecting my wishes. Somewhere in some corner of my heart — I felt hurt.
While the boys continued playing with the sticker book, I tried to figure out what was frustrating me. I explored this little bit of pain and thought, who’s really at fault here? I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old not paying attention to me. At 30, I can barely pay attention to people. Yet, I’m feeling hurt from them not listening to me. At that point, I realized that I was the one in charge of the situation. I could allow the sticker book to dominate, or I could bring some energy to Goodnight Moon.
So, off I went with the best British accent I could manage, vocalizing super highs and super low sounds. The boys immediately thought this was funny, and all attention transitioned from the sticker book onto this new (I would not say improved) way to read Goodnight Moon. After a few pages, I could feel which vocal tones would elicit laughter and adjusted as I read through the rest of the book. By the end, the boys were laughing so much that Charlie would fall down from laughing so hard.
That night, I could have easily let my frustration get the best of me. I could have told the boys that I wasn’t going to read to them, put the book down, and made them go to bed without a bedtime story. Instead, I made the decision to take ownership of the situation and turn it into a positive experience. If I want my boys to love books and have 10 minutes of reading time together at night, then I better make it fun. That’s up to me, not them. I have to take responsibility for my roles in life. If I want to make these moments fun and engage people — well then, maybe I need to keep practicing my British accent.