The bewitching hour

Can I have one more story? Pleeease?

The hour or two before bedtime is often the hardest part of the day, coinciding as it does with the kids being at their most tired and lairy. But sometimes it’s also my favourite time of the day.

Can I have one more story? Pleeease?
Can I have one more story? Pleeease?

From home-time to bed-time

Don’t get me wrong, there are days when we need industrial ear defenders to block out the cacophony created three tired children. (Why is it always the youngest who’s the loudest?)

On such days, Heather will immediately thrust one or more children at me with that look in her eyes that says she would like a five hour minute time-out and a cup of tea. Right. Now. Please. I can’t say I blame her. I’d be no better – quite the contrary.

In fairness, it hasn’t happened that much recently. Neither of us are sure why. But more often that not, the moment I open the front door I’m immediately swamped by a small pink bowling ball (Kara), a lanky beanpole (Isaac) and – I know it’s a good day on those rare occasions it happens – a squealing, grinning goat/donkey/whatever animal he’s pretending to be today (Toby).

This is why I make an effort to come home from work at a reasonable time, especially if I’ve been away. And, since New Year, I’ve been more ruthless about ensuring I spend the subsequent time with the children, rather than worrying about emails or blogging deadlines or all the other domestic stuff one has to deal with.

Occasionally I’m home early enough to spend a full couple of hours with them before bed. Sometimes I’m only back in time to read them a final story. Mostly it’s somewhere in between: an hour or so. But on a good day, I’ll have three smiling kids clambering all over me for cuddles talking about their days. Often we’ll watch some music on TV. We’re in a lovely phase just now where all three of them are keen at the same time, so there’s plenty of singing. (My greatest achievement so far this year: getting Kara to like Billy Idol’s White Wedding nearly as much as LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem. Nearly.) And finally we might even curl up with all five of us on the sofa watching programmes to wind down before going upstairs.

From winding down to bedding down

Bath-time, admittedly, can be tricky. If the boys are over-tired they will niggle each other or procrastinate to the point of distraction. But when it works, all three of them will happily play in the tub together until they have to be forcibly evicted. Sometimes this requires a crane and the threat of deportation.

And although I still love reading stories to the boys, my favourite part of the evening is the final ten minutes which I generally get to spend with Kara before putting her down to sleep.

The ritual is well established now:

  • Let her climb out of the bath and jump into my lap.
  • Wrap, towel down, cuddle.
  • Ask her which bedroom she wants to go to – the answer is invariably “Boys!”
  • Dress her and read one or two stories there.
  • Relocate to her bedroom. Scatter a selection of Peppa Pig and Maisy books on her bed and let her pick three for me to read sitting on the floor while she lies on the edge of the mattress with her back snuggling into my chest.
  • Tuck her in. Sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (the extended 12″ remix version) complete with actions – she will make a diamond shape with her hands and cackle with delight as if it’s the first time she’s ever done it.
  • Cuddle. Kiss. Tuck her in again. High-five. Wait for her to demand a second cuddle. Then a third.
  • Wave bye-bye. Shut the door-gate behind me.
  • Wait out of sight as she hops out of bed and shouts her displeasure at being left alone, then wait for her to turn straight around and climb back into bed, where she’ll usually go to sleep happily.
  • Go downstairs, frequently with an inane grin on my face.

Of course, it’s not exactly the same every night, but the routine is becoming increasingly set. Fast approaching her second birthday, Kara is definitely more Daddy-centric than either of the boys ever were at that age.

I love spending time with all my kids in what I’ve started to call the ‘bewitching hour’, but it’s the bond that has developed with my little girl which is making the third time around the toddler block something even more special.