It was yet another night of me either ‘creatively redirecting’ the kids to their room for bath time, or dipping into my last reserves of patience as I ignored their whines and pleas to stay up ‘just a little bit longer.’ Once I got them in their room, the chaos continued, especially with my little one: jumping on the bed, bouncing off the walls (literally), insisting on playing with all of the toys that he had ignored for the past 12 hours, and, most annoying to me, acting like he had suddenly been struck deaf, oblivious to my requests to start to get ready for bed. Exhausted from the day and from saying, “Please, [take off your clothes/put your clothes in the hamper/go to the potty/brush your teeth]” for what felt like the millionth time, I often felt like crying. Or yelling. I usually resorted to the latter. It was never pretty.
I decided something had to change.
And I had the power to change it.
I remembered my oldest son’s kindergarten teacher’s creative solution to help him remember all of the steps of his morning school routine. She took pictures of him doing each action that was required, and printed out a ‘book’ for him to follow. I thought, “Why not modify that brilliant idea for my littlest one at night time?” I pulled out my camera, told my youngest I was going to make him a book in which he was going to be the main character, and started snapping pictures of him — getting undressed, putting his clothes in the hamper, using the potty, brushing his teeth, climbing into the tub, and sitting down. That night, I loaded the pictures onto the computer, picked the best shots (there ended up being 9 in all), copied them into a Word document, and added large, simple text. The title? “Alex Gets Ready for a Bath.”
When I showed him the book the next morning, he was thrilled! There he was, the star of the page! Getting undressed! Brushing his teeth! I read it to him once. I read it to him twice. “Again!” he asked. I obliged. Then the miracle happened:
“I want to read it myself, Mommy!”
“Sure, baby!” I handed the book over. And my little one, page after page, cover to cover, recited the entire book back to me. “Again!” I asked. He obliged. I watched as he haphazardly moved his finger under the words, just as I had. ‘This is the beginning!’ I heard the voice in my head squeal excitedly. ‘He is really, truly learning to read!’ It was a beautiful sight to behold. As a little test, I asked him where the word ‘teeth’ was on the page, emphasizing the ‘t t t’ sound. He pointed right to it. I asked him what letter ‘teeth’ started with. “T!” he shouted.
I wanted to weep. This time for joy.
That night, after corralling him up the stairs yet again, I simply flipped open “Alex Gets Ready for a Bath.” “What do you need to do first?” I asked my son. Alex looked at the picture on the first page, and immediately began to get undressed. I turned the page. Into the hamper the dirty clothes went! And so on, until my son was sitting down in the tub, ready for his bath. (Great job, Alex!)
Another added bonus? After a few nights of reading the book together, I don’t even have to actively use it anymore. “I know what to do, Mom!” he says. And he does. If he starts to get distracted, I just ask him if he needs me to get his book out. Back on track he goes. (Great job, Alex!)
A little book was all it took to balance the flow of power between my son and I at bath time, to bring more peace to our night time routine. My son is filled with pride and a sense of independence; I am able to relax, be present, and soak up the sight of my sweet, precious child surrounded by bubbles.
I am able to just love.
(This post is an extension of an article I recently wrote for the e-magazine, On the Path — )