Putting the House to Sleep
The cold front was definitely here. I walked around the living room before bed time last night, dropping down blinds and switching off lamps, with Annika scuffling behind me in her slippers that look like green monster feet. I went last to the electric fire and flipped it off. The sudden void of fake, flickering flames and humming electricity made the room seem immediately colder.
She was distracted with a marble that had rolled into a corner and I hurried her out from underneath the table and into the kitchen.
"Why can't I play in the living room while you take a shower?" She asked as we made our way to her bedroom.
"Because I just put the living room to sleep," I answered.
And it wasn't until I gave it a name that I even considered blogging about it. It was only then that I realized this silly thing I do is more than just a quirk, it's a concept. This thing about "putting the house to sleep" at night, it's a concept based on real things that have proved themselves to be true. And while it may not work for every family, it's interesting enough to consider and maybe even give it a shot.
So, putting the house to sleep means slowly shutting down the environment of your home as the end of the day draws near.
It's things like:
1. "Unplugging" from the digital world. Turning off the computer (okay, at least the monitor), television, etc.
2. Lowing the lights and the volume on any music or noise going on.
3. Putting away activities and unfinished projects
4. Returning clutter-things to their rightful home.
5. Making any preparations for the next morning.
6. Shutting off lights, closing doors, leaving the room for the night.
In our home, the living room is the first to go because that's usually where we are when we should be in bed.
Here's why it works for me.
1. It gives me an easily-defined and practical goal. It ties the time on the clock with a visible change in my surroundings. My personal goal is to have the house shut down and us crawling into bed by 10 p.m., but it's hard to do that without preparation. Sometimes I don't even realize how late it is until it's too late. But if it's 9:30 p.m. and lights are on and Annika is playing games on my iPhone and I'm folding laundry and watching a movie, I know I'm behind.
2. It resonates with the natural order and rhythm of our bodies. It's plain science that our bodies respond to the rising and setting of the sun, to the changing of the environment as we settle into night. But we are largely disconnected with any natural rhythm of day and night in our modern world; many homes look practically unchanged inside no matter what time of day it is outside. So purposefully creating transition in our environment helps to tell our bodies to prepare for rest.
3. It does wonders for kids. All kids are supposed to love structure and predictability right? This sends so many easily-understood and readable signals to a kid without our having to say a word. Which is wonderful because I get awfully tired of nagging. I don't have to warn Annika, "Ten more minutes.... five more minutes... just another minute.... okay, one more minute..." when I'm doing well with quietly shutting down the environment around her. By the time the house is silent and the lights are low, she's not surprised when I tell her it's time to wrap up and clean up. And whats more, she's expectant - she's anticipating the routines that come next.
4. It provides opportunities for family traditions. We all have the big traditions like weddings and graduations or annual ones like birthdays. Maybe seasonal traditions like picking out a pumpkin or Christmas tree. We love those. We remember them. Traditions make us feel like we're a part of something comfortable and familiar and we usually cherish them. So why not have traditions that happen every night? A cup of Sleepytime tea, a chapter of a special book in bed, time set aside to cuddle and pray. I never regret getting of Facebook early to make permanent, every-night time for those things.
5. It keeps me focused and not as easily distracted. I mentioned Facebook. We don't watch much television, so for me it's usually the internet that sucks my time without my even realizing it. Or Annika gets caught up in making a mess in her playroom just before bed and whines about being too tired to clean it up. That's why it's such a good idea for us to start shutting down, cleaning up, walking away. Whatever it takes to discipline myself and say, "I'm done in here. This room is asleep," and physically remove my focus from the things that tend to own me at night. When the living room is shut down and the curtain is pulled, I'm much less likely to drift back into a distraction instead of focusing on a cup of tea with Annika and then thirty minutes to indulge in my scandalous fiction novel. (For the record, it's not really so scandalous. At least not yet!)
And for another record, we don't do this flawlessly. There are enough nights that play out just like that scenario I mentioned earlier... the one with Annika on the iPhone and me stressing about laundry thirty minutes before the bedtime goal. And usually, on those nights, the sink is probably full of dishes. (Unless, of course, we ate popcorn and cheese for dinner that night.)
But, no matter how inconsistent I may be, I'm sticking with it because it has made such a noticeable difference in our evenings.
I'd love to know... Do you have any bedtime routines?
What type of traditions does your family have at night?