All parents yearn for bedtime. All children wage war on sleep, digging deep down into their arsenals. Avery and Lily will raise some amount of fuss over bedtime, but truly they’re not too difficult to get into bed. They cheerfully get tucked in, then when I close the door, they’re up and running. I can hear them running, jumping off the bed, kicking the walls, swinging from the curtains, etc. It’s nice to have a playmate. Unless one of them starts screaming, we do not enter the room. Once they’re soundly asleep in a pile on the floor, Noel and I place them back in bed and tuck them in again.
About a month ago, Avery went through a spell when she’d wake up five or six times a night, screaming and crying terribly. It was really disconcerting because clearly she was scared or having nightmares or something like that. My dad advised me to shake up their normal routine, break the pattern so that something different would be on their minds. I changed up their bedtime routine. I decided to start telling them a bedtime story. Reading a book sounds easier, but what ends up happening is they get into it over who’s going to be closest to the book, who’s going to turn the page, etc. I wanted bedtime to be low stress, which all parents know is a tall order.
The whole first day that I had decided to tell a bedtime story, I kept thinking, “What am I going to say?” It’s not always easy to make these things up on the spot, especially at the end of a long day. My brain kept going back to the stories my dad told my brothers and I when we were little. As kids, we’d all pile into my double bed, the boys each had twin beds, and Dad would read aloud to us AND tell stories that he’d made up. I loved the stories about Billy, Bobby, and Betty Black and their amazing horse Thundercloud. Ironically I didn’t realize at the time that he’d chosen two boys and a girl because we were two boys and a girl! So all day, I’m thinking of Thundercloud but kept dismissing it because the Thundercloud stories had two boys and a girl. When I laid the girls down that night, I thought to heck with it, I’m changing Billy to Billie and cutting out poor old Bobby. So a new generation of Thundercloud stories were born. Avery and Lily love Thundercloud so much that they repeat the intro and ending all throughout the day. The middle is the only part that’s different from one story to another! Every story involves Billie and Betty Black and Thundercloud saving a barnyard animal, except one time Lily asked for them to save a monkey and then Avery requested a crocodile. The stories have turned bedtime into something Avery and Lily look forward to, and Avery’s nightmares have stopped completely. It’s so precious to me, to lay with them and tell them these stories, that they recite along with me, just like my dad did for me when I was a little girl. However, my stories are much tamer than his! Nothing bad happens in my stories, but my dad was also telling these for my older brothers, so they had to be a bit more perilous in order to keep their attention.
Mine start like this:
“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful farm in the country with green, green grass and a blue pond and a stream running through it. On this farm lived the two nicest girls in the county, Billie and Betty Black. Billie had curly, brown hair that bounced when she ran, and Betty Black had shiny, brown hair that glistened in the sun. One of the special things about Billie and Betty Black was that they had an amazing horse named . . .THUNDERCLOUD. He was named Thundercloud because he was big and strong and good (Lily’s favorite line). His coat was as black as night and when he ran, it sounded like this (that’s when I do that clappity slappity thing on my legs that sounds like a horse running). What made Thundercloud so special was that he always helped anyone who was in trouble. He’d hear the call “Help Me,” his ears would prick up, and he’d run in the direction of the call.
One sunny morning . . .”
Then the trio helps a cow stuck on barbed wire, a sheep in a river, a pig in quicksand etc.
I always end with “and Billie and Betty Black led Thundercloud back to his barn where they gave him a nice, orange, crunchy carrot.” Avery loves that line, and it even helps me to get her to eat her carrots. Actually Thundercloud helps me get them to eat lots of stuff.
The last part of our bedtime routine is to say our prayers. Lily, in particular, is very fervent about thanking God. She thanks God for mama, dada, Nenna, Pa, Uncle Danny (their name for my brother David), Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and Minnie. I know it sounds silly, but she ardently thanks the Lord for the entire cast of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Last night, she ended with Minnie, so I asked her why she was thankful for Minnie. I realized that was bit of a toughie, so I switched to, “What is good about Minnie?” She was looking pensive when Avery jumped in with, “her shoes!!!” So, I just offered that maybe they are thankful for Mickey, etc because they make us happy. The girls accepted this answer. Avery’s prayers are wide ranging, but largely include food and pets that belong to other people since we have none of our own. Avery thanks God for mama, dada, Nenna, Pa, Pops (their step grandfather), chips, tacos, meximole (her word for guacamole), pizza, and the list goes on and on. Then she goes on to thank God for Daniel, Hubbell (my aunt Julie’s dogs), and Angel (Nenna’s dog). One night when I asked Avery what she wanted to thank God for, she said Billie and Betty Black. I couldn’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy inside.