Foster Fridays: The Lamb-A-Roo and bedtime too

It’s hard to imagine a more specific bedtime routine than the one that takes place at our house between 7:30 and 8 p.m. each night.

First we pick out our books — two on an ordinary night and one if we’re extra busy. But, we always start with a book. Sometimes, there’s a fight about which book we’re going to read, but I normally stay out of that. I believe siblings have a purpose in each other’s lives and one of those is to teach each other how to resolve conflicts.

They all know my favorite is The Lamb-a-roo, a book that rose miraculously from a pile of old School Specialty books and made its way into our library. We picked it the first time because we liked the cover, but we ended up liking the message even better — that families thrive on love, not conformity.

We’ve read that book a lot.

Once the important work of choosing the books is complete, we settle in and, normally, the eight-year old in our household, an animated showman, does the reading.

Then we sing. We started out with a variety of lullabyes but, several months ago we settled on just one, Down By The Bay. We sing a verse for every letter of the alphabet, which has resulted in some excellent rhymers. When I’m feeling crabby, I pick up the tempo, but they notice that.

“Hey! Why are you singing so fast?!”

“Sorry,” I say and take the nice, deep breath I’m always encouraging them to try.

Lastly, we rock exactly 100 times, and when we reach 77 we stop to pay homage to “the greatest number in the world”. If I miss this step because I’m counting mindlessly, they notice.

Then I tuck them in.

“Will you stay for a little while?” the five-year old asks and I used to say, “I can’t because I have a lot of things I need to do. But, I’ll check in on you later.”

Then I had a little talk with myself and decided that it wouldn’t hurt anything at all for me to stay in that comfy blue rocking chair waiting until my two little charges are too sleepy to fret.

I don’t do the bedtime routine every night. I share those duties with my husband, whose own variation on a very similar routine sometimes involves the stories he makes up. He is the one who started the Down By The Bay tradition.

I wish I’d known a long time ago how important routines are to healing trauma-affected brains. Routines breed trust and, from that, self-confidence can bloom.

I learned, and then I stopped saying things like, “It’s really late so we’re not going to be able to read tonight.” We do our bedtime routine every night, because it settles their brains and sets everyone up for a good night’s sleep, which is also important to the healing process.

I can’t say that our bedtimes always proceed smoothly. Occasionally, my mind drifts and I find I am not even listening to our very earnest reader. I never feel good about that. Or, I’ll bark on a particularly squirrelly night, “Do not hit your brother!” I know there are better ways to handle those moments.

Mostly, though, our bedtimes routine provides a soothing segue to peace for all of us, and I highly recommend.

May is Foster Care awareness month. If you have any questions about how you can help (and there are lots of ways!) please let me know. I would be glad to chat or to put you in touch with people who can answer any questions you have.

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