Like every family I’m sure, we had little bedtime rituals here at our house when our children were small. As soon as my son was in a “big boy bed” my husband and I would both lay down with him and read him books. Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Gorilla, (my favorite) Jamberry (my husband’s favorite) and of course Green Eggs and Ham were popular in rotation. I would read the page on the left and my husband would read the page on the right. Like wicked children my husband and I would each try to choose books we knew had more text on “our” side. When my daughter was old enough we would do the same.
As my son got older my husband and I started moving beyond Dr. Seuss and on to bigger books. We started reading chapter books like Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles and The Chronicles of Narnia series. I would usually fall asleep while we were reading these books (therefore losing out on my page) and my husband would end up reading the chapter himself.
After my husband read to our son I would wake up and tuck him in and kiss him and tell him, “Sweetest sweet dreams in the whole wide world and have good luck.” (He came up with this saying and would insist that I say this to him every night.)
“You do too, Mom,” he would say as he rolled over to go to sleep.
When our son got older and started going to bed later and began to read chapter books on his own, I would still come in and read Shel Silverstein poems to him. Oh how we loved Shel Silverstein. We have all his books and have probably read each poem at least 100 times. He would always make me read the longest poems to him.
My daughter was never interested in hearing big chapter books like my son. She preferred the picture books. If we did start a short chapter book – Judy Moody, Magic Tree House – she’d rarely stick with it. The next night I’d crawl into bed with her to read the next chapter and she’d want something else instead.
After reading to my daughter I always gave her good dreams. They were very elaborate and imaginative: I want you to dream that you are flying to the moon on butterfly wings – Make them eagle wings Mommy – okay eagle wings, and when you get to the moon you jump up and down like you are on the biggest trampoline in the world – But I’m not in the world Mommy, I’m on the moon – Yes, you are on the moon, and when you get tired of jumping you fly down and land on a cloud where you take a nap. When you wake up you eat the cloud because it tastes just like cotton candy and then you fly down into your bed and fall asleep.
My daughter is ten now and has advanced to chapter books, but prefers to read them on her own. Once in awhile she’ll let me read her some poems and even give her some more “grownup” good dreams.
My favorite one to give her is this: “I want you to dream that when you wake up in the morning your room will be clean. Oh wait,” I say slapping myself in the forehead, “That’s my dream.”
My son is thirteen and we don’t read to him anymore. Until recently he still liked me to climb in bed with him and read him poems. But for the past month or two when we tell him it’s bedtime he gets ready for bed and stands at the end of the hall and says goodnight. I’ll usually wait a few minutes and then go peek my head in his room and give him a kiss.
The other night I picked up a Shel Silverstein book and picked a poem. “That poem is too long Mom.
Can you pick another one?”
“Sure,” I told him and picked a short one and did my best to read it without a quiver in my voice.
“Thanks, goodnight,” he said as he rolled over.
“I miss reading you poems,” I told him.
“I know, because you said you would read to me at night until I didn’t want you to anymore.”
“So you’re good with this? You don’t want me to anymore?”
“I’m good with this,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked with tears in my eyes.
“I’m sure. Goodnight Mom.”
“Goodnight Honey. Sweetest sweet dreams in the whole wide world and have good luck.”
“You do too, Mom” he responded to me as always. And as I shut his door I wondered how long it would be before he outgrows this very last ritual of ours as he has outgrown the others. I hope it’s a very, very long time.
*Originally posted on skirt.com October 2010. Some nights, when Chandler is home from college (and he goes to bed before me) I still tell him, “Sweetest sweet dream in the whole wide world and have good luck.” And he always tells me, “You do too.”