First, we have a tea party in the bath and play with the pirates that stick to the bath walls.
Next, we brush our teeth to the tune of the ABCs, comb our hair, and put some essential oils on our feet to help stave off the sickness cesspool formally known as daycare.
Then, we have a second tea party in my daughter’s bedroom – the invisible concoction not actually being tea, but some combination of chocolate, blueberries, and ice cream.
Followed, in no particular order, by opening and closing each blind in the room, having pretend driving trips to grandparents’ houses, and reading numerous books in between spurts of distractions by the desire to flip the light switch on and off.
And finally, we say a quick prayer, have a backscratching session, and the lights are out.
One hour after beginning our bedtime routine, my daughter is finally ready to shut her eyes and say goodnight.
This, to put it lightly, is an incredibly inefficient bedtime routine.
Parents operate at the speed of efficiency. Kids operate at the speed of discovery.
This is a quote from my good friend Anna’s dad, who is a pastor. It has stuck with me since the day I heard it years ago.
Sometimes I can watch my kids play with a toy with the same intensity that they did the first they played with it, even if it’s the 1000th time this week. It seems kids have an ability to continually discover amidst monotony, and at some point in the process of growing up, we lose it. It’s no wonder that everything from the Bible to modern psychology touts the need for us adults to become kids again. When we do it, we move from efficiency to discovery and tap into parts of ourselves that are as hard-wired as our physical attributes.
Which brings me back to the bedtime routine.
I cherish these inefficient bedtimes because I know they’re so much more for my daughter. Every night is something new – her recent discovery of “fake driving” leads us to various places she loves while daddy “sleeps” in the car. An empty tea cup becomes a blank slate for whatever ingredients she can imagine. The blinds become a new mountain to climb, mimicking the adult tasks she sees mom and dad do daily. She is operating at the speed of discovery.
I know there will come a day when my daughter no longer wants me to put her to bed. And that reason alone is enough to make the most of this current state of toddler-hood, when she still thinks I’m cool and worthy of her beloved play time. When the day comes that I no longer get invited to the bedtime tea party, I’ll look back on this period grateful that I didn’t try to rush – in the name of efficiency – what is a fleeting moment in the bigger picture of my life. The work, writing, and Netflix shows will always be there waiting for me. My two year old daughter won’t.