Morning was my least favorite part of the day. Although bedtime was a close second. Apparently there is something about the phrase, “time for bed,” that causes children to develop unquenchable thirst, suddenly remember they need me to sign a stack of papers from school, and develop a new fear of at least three items in their bedroom. Once I finally got them tucked in, there were always at least two “urgent” matters that required them to get back up and tell me something, which was often followed by, “Mom, I can’t sleep anymore.” Generally, this cycle ended in me yelling. Admittedly, on our worst nights, they would cry themselves to sleep. This naturally resulted in me being racked with bad mom guilt. I would stare at them once they had transformed into sleeping little angels and cry for losing my cool. Only to be followed by more yelling the next morning.
Going to bed and rising in the morning felt like punishment for everyone involved. There was no way I was going to survive almost two decades of mornings and evenings like that. First order of business: take stock of the situation. My kids acted like going to bed was some sort of recurring punishment at the end of the day. This resulted in them resisting bedtime, frustrating me, going to sleep late and waking up tired. I had some blame in that. When they misbehaved, argued or did anything that I didn’t want them doing, I would threaten to send them to bed. So I had, in fact, perpetuated the idea that sleep was punishment while wanting them to do it willingly. We were lacking purpose in our bedtime routine. That was my first problem.
Despite the fact that we had all been treating sleep as an inconvenience, none of us seemed that excited about waking up either. Why? We weren’t ready for eternal slumber, so why were we battling both sleep and rising? This took me a little longer to work through, although the answer was ultimately simple.
We had become so accustomed to waking up, that we skipped right over its significance and dove into the day’s duties.
We were lacking gratitude in our morning routine. That was my second problem. It was definitely time to put more energy and love into our mornings and we accomplished this in three ways.
Deciding to Rest with Purpose
The extent of my conversations with my children regarding sleep were as deep as “It’s time to go to bed.” In my defense, I’m almost positive that I had thrown in, “Sleep makes you strong” at least once or twice. However, we had never really discussed the meaning and importance of rest, probably because I didn’t often consider it myself. I prided myself on not needing much sleep at all (which really only meant that I was managing to stay alive and acceptably functional with a mere four hours of sleep on a good night). I had to adjust my own thinking first. Sleep is not a crutch for the weak or an inefficiency of the human body. It has purpose and value. Sleep is a period of physical, mental and spiritual restoration. It is what allows our bodies to function physically and our brains to coordinate and regulate that functioning in an amazing and intricate way. Sleep restores our spiritual energy and clarity, if we rest purposefully.
So, what is purposeful rest? It’s simply acknowledging the importance of our rest and being very intentional in the way we approach our sleeping time and environment. As a family, we discussed the real value of rest and I told them that each night before heading to bed, we would start telling our bodies, mind a nd spirit what kind of rest we needed. My personal intention was usually “to rejuvenate my spirit, to rest my body and to calm my mind.” Sometimes, I would set a more specific purpose, such as “ soothe my aching knee” or asking my brain to generate solutions to a specific issue I was dealing with. My children’s intentions ranged from comical to profound, as children’s thoughts often do. My son generally wanted to grow taller and stronger and for his brain “to learn all the answers to math without trying hard.” My daughter would often set her intention for rest as a desire to calm her nerves before a test, or help her body become stronger for sports tryouts. We have all become more attuned to the needs of our bodies and it is a beautiful practice in self-awareness. As you embrace the purpose of sleep you also respect its importance, its necessity and the environment you create for it resulting in better sleep.
Rising with Gratitude
After discussing the value of rest, we turned to the privilege of waking. The most obvious value in rising is the opportunity to live another day. Our addition to our morning was very easy, yet one of the most profoundly important things that we have done.
We start our mornings in gratitude.
As soon as I open my eyes in the morning, sometimes even before I open them, I take a few deep breaths and say thank you aloud. “I am grateful that my rest was purposeful and that I have risen to see another day.” I turn on Bob Marley music and on the really good mornings, I do a little barefoot dancing in my room before I go to wake the children. Instead of yelling through the house, I go into each child’s room and wake them up while, saying, “I am grateful for your purposeful rest and that you have an opportunity to rise another day. I am grateful that you will have a wonderful day and overcome any obstacles”. I repeat it until they are fully awake and then they repeat it after me. There is immense power in gratitude.
It allows you to navigate the same world, but with an empowered perspective.
Embracing the Chaos
Now, before you cue the trumpets and commission my mother of the year statue, there are a few disclaimers. Does this mean that we never fight over clothing choices, or lunch? Absolutely not. Do the kids still develop an unquenchable thirst at bedtime? At least two times a week. I’m not pitching you a miraculous way to end up with peaceful, rule abiding children and an immaculate house that runs like clockwork. More importantly, I would argue that there is nothing wrong with your messy house and your strong willed children. If you are searching for something or someway to perfect your daily routine, let me save you the trouble: there isn’t one. Life with children is unpredictable, messy, often overwhelming and always changing. What I am offering here is a way to embrace the chaos.
If you rise with gratitude on your tongue, it becomes quite difficult to succumb to negative energy.
We did not morph into a family of quiet spoken, enlightened enthusiasts overnight (or at all for that matter). It was a routine that my kids resisted (because they are kids and compliance just isn’t their thing). My husband also laughed at me (and made some type of “you must be watching Oprah again” joke). I moved my phone from the nightstand to a charging station in our entryway at night to discourage myself from waking up suddenly with urgent reminders. I have to wake up a little earlier to ensure that we have time to perform our routine every morning. We are still pretty loud and the house still often looks like a hurricane has hit every morning. But, I am ok with that. When I give my kids a kiss (they usually don’t pull away anymore) and tell them to have a good day, I know that their day started with positive energy, which increases their chances of actually having a good day. There is no such thing as a perfect evening or morning routine, at least not one that involves children.
We don’t have to control every situation; we just need to be able to joyously embrace the chaos.
Choosing to rest with defined purpose and rise with spoken gratitude allows the living that occurs between the two to be more meaningful.