I’ve been trying for several years to figure out (1) when my optimal time of the day is for 20 minutes of mental prayer and (2) how to make our bedtime routine more pleasant.
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 : )