Dilemma 1: A gruff bedtime
We have a nice bathtime, storytime, and family prayer routine in the evening, and then once that’s over, we are strict with the lights out and quiet. Also, many nights I do the bedtime routine alone (= very tired and no time for foolery). The day doesn’t usually end sourly with the kids, but it’s not always very precious and gentle either. I often have wished we could have both good bedtime discipline and a sweet goodnight.
Dilemma 2: When to pray
Setting aside a chunk of time for mental prayer is supremely important, and I can tell how unanchored I am when I go a couple of days without it. But oh the challenge of finding that optimal time! For me, early mornings are out, because I’m just not a morning person. Fine for exercise, a quick morning offering, and for executing the clothing-shoes-breakfast-backpack-Mass-school drop-off routine, but I’m in no state for recollection. Mid-day nap time/”quiet” time fails because my kids interrupt but mostly because my mind can’t quiet itself enough in the middle of a busy day to really be still with Our Lord. And obviously the late afternoon or evening before dinner is a no-go.
Enter Lullaby Prayer Time
I have found great success lately by combining the kids’ lights-out-and-quiet with 20 minutes of mental prayer. As soon as our bedtime routine ends, I sit (not lie down or recline!!) in the kids’ room for the next 20 minutes. I tell the kids that I can do my prayer in their room as long as they are quiet so that I can talk with and listen to Jesus. If they goof around, I leave to pray somewhere else. It’s ideal. Their bedroom is very calming, with their starry nightlight and images of Our Lady and the saints along the walls. It’s a natural time of shifting gears in the day, so I’m at a lull mentally: my mom work is done for the day, and I haven’t yet revved up for the fourth quarter (housework, other to-do’s, time with my husband). Great for recollection and evaluation, and also for preparing myself to use the night hours well. The kids see that I pray, and I get to watch them resting peacefully as I pray for them. They fall asleep surrounded, literally, by prayers.
I have even told my husband that this is my resolution, so he’ll raise an eyebrow if I come bounding downstairs prematurely. (And come to think of it, it’s probably nice for him to have a little down time at this juncture before his chatty, busy wife arrives on the scene!!)
Bringing interior calm to these busy, unpredictable family days will always be a challenge, but the lullaby prayer time is working beautifully for now. Just in time for the arrival of Baby #4 next month to shake it all up again : )