I’ve explained this on twitter before. A series of tweets by way of an explanation for the occasional bizarre tweet that goes something like, “Tonight, no dreaming about clowns, rice krispy treats, or poodles”. (That was tonight’s by the way). But I wasn’t sure if I had ever offered up the full explanation in one place so here we are.
The list of three things is one of my favorite rituals and something unique to my relationship with my youngest son. So many little things that start with a first child sort of roll down hill and continue with each successive child so that by the time you got to the youngest they all knew the little routines. Those things that are unique about each parent and their relationship with their kids. Maybe a silly expression. Or a mannerism. Or in this case, a bedtime routine.
I was always the queen of the bedtime routine. Much to my ex-husband’s dismay. It started from before the oldest was born. I confess to reading and singing to him when he was still on the inside planning his escape. And I’ve sung to them almost every day since. By the time my ex tried to get in on the deal, the boys wouldn’t hear of it. Toddlers cut to the chase with an innocent honesty that can inflict more pain than a knife. Especially when they say “No Daddy, you can’t sing. Only Mommy can sing.” I still feel bad about that.
But that was my thing. That bedtime routine. Where we snuggled and read and talked. And when we were done with that daily cupcake of life, the icing was singing them to sleep.
And then Jake came along. And somewhere around the age of two or three, he had a bad dream and had a hard time getting to sleep. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, I just know I was in my own sleep deprived fog and I remembered something I had heard somewhere (no idea where) about reverse psychology and kids and the power of suggestion. About how if someone tells you, “Whatever you do, don’t think about a zebra,” you can’t help but picture a zebra. The word ‘don’t is an after-effect of sorts. Our brain first processes the thing and only afterwards the negative about the thing. Which is why we always told our kids what we wanted them to do (walking feet, quiet or inside voice, touch gently, etc) instead of what we didn’t want them to do because “Don’t run!”, translates into “Run!!”, to a little brain that has a hard time processing the secondary negative.
So in a moment of desperation I told him, “Whatever you do…NO dreaming about pink kitties or purple elephants!” Or something to that effect. I said it a few times and made sure he knew they were completely off limits. And it worked. And it’s become a part of of our nighttime routine ever since.
Somewhere along the way it went from two things to three. I tend to like groupings of odd numbered things. And I’ve tried to keep one food item, one animal, and one completely random thing in there. I also like to do the same thing as a writing prompt. It’s particularly helpful when the writer tends to enjoy writing bizarro.
So every night after reading and after either me singing (or as he’s started to develop a love for music)I now play a few calming/uplifting songs for him on my iPhone, I say this…
“Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite. I love you and I’ll see you in the morning. No dreaming about…”
So may all your dreams be happy ones. And tonight, no dreaming about a mouse, a bologna sandwich, or a green umbrella.