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    Evening Liturgy

    March 14, 2018 by Hayley Beck

    [dropcap]M[/dropcap]y perfect ending to our day would look like this:

    Dinner ready and on the table by 5:15 (cooked by anyone but me).  The children bathed (of course!) and in their pyjamas (maybe with their hair still wet), gathered around the living room while my husband reads aloud to us after a long day.  He’d close us with Scripture and prayer and we’d usher the children to bed with kisses and soft spoken words. As we closed the door to the children’s bedrooms, we’d smile, look at each other, and have this great feeling of the day concluding perfectly.

    Oh, and those dinner dishes and the kitchen?  All clean and tidy, ready for a new day … cleaned by the kitchen fairies.

    “Do you think we could try and read together as a family at night? You know, lots of families do. And reading together would be so good for our family,” I’ve asked my husband over the years.

    His answer: “It’s just not for our family, for this season. Tell me how it would work when we’re racing to get dinner on the table, and it feels so chaotic? Trying to add in a read aloud time with the entire family is just not for us.”

    Sometimes I would think I heard him say, “Someday,” but I wasn’t really sure, and I was always disappointed that he didn’t even want to try.

    Truth be told he was right.  If we were going to try for something of an evening, we may as well try for something that would fit with our current reality.

    We have six children. Our oldest is currently 10 and our youngest is 21 months. On a regular, we-haven’t-run-errands-and-are-running-late evening, our newly-turned-4-year-old is in bed by 6:45 pm, our 21-month-old by 7:00 pm, 5-year-old by 7:15 pm, 6-year-old by 7:30 pm, and 8- and 9-year-olds are in bed by 7:45 pm (though they somehow manage to stretch it to 8:00 pm).

    We didn’t decide on this schedule; it just evolved as our oldest got older and her bedtime got later, but the younger ones were still going to bed at the original time that worked for us.

    For almost two hours we’re doing some sort of bedtime with someone. We stagger bedtime because that’s what works for us — and that’s why a family read aloud doesn’t. At least not yet. (Reading aloud tends to work best with me reading at lunchtime. Daddy misses out on our read aloud but it’s OK, for this season.)

    Somewhere along the line I asked if it would be OK if I cleaned the kitchen of an evening while he prayed with the children and tucked them into bed. If it worked out for me to join in, I would. But if he took care of bedtime and I took care of the kitchen, by the time the children were in bed, we could both take a deep breath.

    This is the (perfect) evening routine for us during this season. It feels far from a picturesque evening of our family all together until bedtime, enjoying a good book and relaxing together in a hushed, dimly lit room.

    We still felt like, even with my husband praying with each of our children, they weren’t getting enough one-on-one time with us on a given day. Taking into account that we staggered bedtime, we decided to start bedtime with each child 15 minutes earlier. In that 15 minutes, they get in their pyjamas (if not already), go to the kitchen for a quick drink, and while I’m playing “kitchen fairy” they’ll say goodnight to me there. Then my husband snuggles up to read a book just for that child, prays with him or her, and tucks them into bed.

    It’s a beautiful time for each of our children. While I wish we could both be there to read aloud, pray, and tuck them in, for now it works beautifully.

    I’ll be honest. I sort of wish it were me being able to read to them, pray with them, and tuck them into bed. Or I’d at least like to be a part of it. But really, I’ve been with my children all day – we’ve read together, prayed together, eaten lunch together, and read together again. I’ve had the joy of wiping their tears, laughing at their antics, and teaching them life lessons of how to resolve conflict, bake cookies, or complete a chore well. We’ve ran errands, visited friends, played under the sprinkler, been to the park, skipped down the street while picking up speed and running away from that gigantic purple lion that’s as big as our house, and the list goes on.

    I’ve had so many moments with each of my children throughout the day. They need this time with their daddy, and he needs it with them.

    So, I’ll say it again: it’s the perfect routine that works for us for this season of our life.

    And those book choices? Well, this is what we’re reading at the moment:

    4 year old (6:15-6:30 pm) Little Bear

    5 year old (6:45-7:00 pm) Frog and Toad

    7 year old (7:00-7:15 pm) Little Pilgrim’s Progress

    8 year old (7:15-7:30 pm) The Jungle Book

    10 year old (7:30-7:45 pm) Unknown to History

    If you follow the AmblesideOnline curriculum you may notice that some of these books are assigned books for certain years or a free read.

    As books (or treasuries) end, they’ll choose another one to read through together.


    For now this works well for us, and I’ll take it!

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  • Reply Nicole April 7, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Beautiful, I really enjoyed reading about your nightly routine.

  • Reply Dawn Duran March 15, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks for giving us a peek into your family’s beautiful bedtime rhythm, Hayley! I love that you are intentional about carving out time for you and your husband to spend together. We have not done as well on that front in the past, but it is absolutely critical to a strong marriage.

    • Reply Hayley March 21, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      Thanks Dawn. So lovely to hear from you!!

  • Reply Toni March 14, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Hayley, this sounds beautiful, really. Staggering bedtimes so that
    Dad can read a story to each individual child sounds divine! Recently, I have dabbled in playing an audio book (like Reddy Fox or one of the other adventure stories by Thornton Burgess… BTW I love John Lieder – he’s an AMAZING reader for LibriVox) while my kids take turns getting their teeth brushed by me before bed. Thanks for another bedtime idea!

    • Reply Hayley Beck March 14, 2018 at 1:33 pm

      I love your idea, too, Toni. ‘Might snag it to use as well!

      Thanks for the tip of John Lieder on Librivox. We use Librivox all the time!

  • Reply KT March 14, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Boy, when you said “I’ve had so many moments with each of my children throughout the day. They need this time with their daddy, and he needs it with them.” that really hit home. My kids don’t want their dad to tuck them in and I end up doing an extended tucking in time, plus the kitchen clean up while my husband relaxes. I know he needs downtime after work, but it makes me a little grumpy. Also, he always wants us to have more time in the evening together and I think our current routine is the reason why we don’t. And finally, I think that if he takes over bedtime, it would be a good way for them to bond with them.
    Now, any suggestions on how to get him to actually spend quality time and not just tell them to go to sleep?

    • Reply Hayley Beck March 14, 2018 at 10:40 pm

      Well, it’s easy to get grumpy when we feel like we’re doing so much as the mama.

      So, what about if your husband read to your kids on the weekend when he wasn’t at work? Sort of, starting out small and not making it a 100% every night commitment. Or, is there a night of the week that works better, and your family could have him participate one night a week and once on the weekend?

      Another thought is an audio book that they can listen with Dad, together. I’m not sure how old your children are but no matter their ages it doesn’t need to be long, 10 minutes would be a good start that’s doable; a picture book can be often read in 10 minutes or less, and even an audio book can be picked up in a few nights and continued.

      Take it in baby steps and make small but lasting changes even if it isn’t every single night.

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