Large Family Wednesday- Bedtime

The Large Family topic this Wednesday is bedtime. Others posting on this today include Chris and Carmen . If anyone else puts up a post on this topic, let me know and I’ll be glad to add your link here too.

We usually begin sending the younger ones in to get PJ’s on, straighten rooms, and brush teeth around 7:30 or so. We do baths only twice a week, except in summer or when they’re really filthy, so that makes the evenings easier. Usually by 8:15 story time has begun. For quite awhile we did one story time for everyone, but now we have such a broad age span that my hubby first reads 2-3 short stories to the 7 and 3 year olds– they usually each pick one (tho dad has veto power if he is too sick of whatever one they chose.)

The big kids hang out with us in the living room and read a book of their own choosing, or listen to the picture-book-reading, whichever they prefer. Then I get the younger ones tucked in while hubby reads to the big kids–a chapter or two from whatever ‘chapter book’ they are currently reading together. Most nights my hubby spends 30 min or more reading, altogether.

While the 3 yr old goes potty and brushes her teeth, I tuck the 7 year olds in– just a hug and a kiss and maybe 30 seconds of talking about what is happening the next day or whatever. Then I grab a bottle for the baby and settle into the 3 yr old’s bed with both girls. If I lie with her, the 3 yr old goes to sleep in less than 10 minutes. If I try to go out, it takes an hour, so it is easier and less stressful to just lie with her. Often the baby is asleep by the time the 3 year old is. Other times we come back out into the living room and she plays awhile before going to sleep for the night.

She wakes if I lay her down, so I just let her sleep in my arms. I am really not worried about setting up an independent-sleep bedtime ritual. Babies grow up so fast–she will sleep alone soon enough. Meanwhile, I love holding her as she sleeps. (Actually, she is napping in my arms right now as I type.)

Anyway, back to the bedtime ritual. Story time for the big kids is done by 9 most nights. We just kiss the big kids and send them off– I guess they have out grown tucking-in. The 11 and 14 year old have to have lights out by 10. The big girls suggested bedtime is 10:30 but really we leave it up to them when they go to bed. Then hubby and I watch the news for an hour or so, and head off to bed ourselves.

The baby sleeps with us. She wakes a couple times in the night for a cuddle, then quickly falls back asleep. We have one of those sidecar-type dohickeys, which is a good thing because probably 5 nights out of 7 the three year old climbs in with us sometime during the night, usually between 4 and 7 or so.

Hubby and I both feel strongly that comforting and being available to our kids at night is as important as being available during the day. All our bigger kids sleep well at night, and when the 2 youngest are ready, they will too. Till then, we’re fine with a little night-time shuffling… Some nights my sleep feels really broken–other nights, like last night, I hardly awaken. But I find if I manage to get to bed by 10:30 or so, I do fine on sleep.


  1. Fantastic description, Mary! What I like about this is that you've taken into account what each child needs and wants, depending on age and personality. What a thoughtful mommy! (And a sweet picture of your husband reading!)

  2. Your hubby is a hottie! and to be reading to little children is so sappy sweet I have to be brushing my teeth now.
    What a great family, and a nice bedtime routine.

    We had our sons with us in our room for quite awhile. I remember the first night the youngest didn't wake me up when he had to go to the bathroom and I felt so alone and sad at this rite of passage.

  3. I just realized how tired I am…and how unorganized and totally chaotic bedtime is here…!

  4. Are those Patricia Polacco books in that picture? We love her too!

    Your routine sounds sweet and thorough. We try to read most nights, but after that, it's every man over 5 for himself!