Evenings are less stressful when you stick to a routine


Whenever a group of moms gets together, the conversation invariably comes back to one thing - sleep, or the lack thereof.

Most of us just don't get enough shut-eye.

Evenings are packed with running the kids here and there, making sure everyone is fed, uniforms are washed and ready for the next day, books are gathered and by the door, baths are had by all, phone calls and e-mails are returned. Managing a household takes a lot of work. It can be exhausting and quite stressful, especially after a full day of work in our vocations.

And in the last few weeks of the school year, all that is compounded. There are recitals, playoff games, graduations, parties, field days. Our calendars are pretty packed at this time of year.

Some nights it seems like such a distance from the front door to the pillow that we wonder if we'll ever make it.


That's when we try to cut corners, rush our kids into bed and add to the general frustration level in the home.

I once heard a mother say her evenings are a lot less stressful when she sticks to the routine, even - and perhaps, especially - when she is tired.

Bedtime expectations of a warm bath, some parental snuggle time and a storybook can be quite precious for a child. And it's surprising how beneficial it is to a parent, but more on that later.

I admit there have been times that I wish my children would go directly from the bath to the bed. Have you been there? You're so tired. The last thing you want to do is read the same picture book you read last night ... and the night before.

But I have learned that by fulfilling my children's expectations of a nightly bedtime story, I've added a lot of joy and peace to my own life.

How can we not feel the stress melt away while reading aloud words such as:

"How much, my honeydew?

How much do I love you?

Lay down your head,

My gingerbread,

And listen, I'll tell you!"

(From "The Bedtime Rhyme," by Walter Wangerin Jr.)

I love the observations children make as they identify with characters. My 4-year-old gets so angry with Eric Carle's "The Grouchy Ladybug," not because the ladybug is grouchy but because she wants to fight animals that are bigger than her. Before each battle can begin, the ladybug changes her mind, issuing a flippant, "Oh, you're not big enough" to her would-be opponent.

My daughter creases her brow and tells the ladybug that she shouldn't lie. Those animals aren't little, they're big.

I wouldn't trade reactions like that for any amount of extra pillow time.

And then there are those "ah-ha!" moments when it's clear a child comprehends what's between the lines. Sometimes I'll pause before turning a page just to see if my children will make any comments.

A few nights ago my daughter and I were reading Julie Sykes' "I Don't Want to Take a Bath," a book about a little tiger who wants to stay clear of the watering hole.

After playing all day and getting quite dirty, the tiger was told by a scornful peacock that he really needed a bath.

I waited after reading the next line, "What an awful thing to say," thought Little Tiger. "I don't need a bath."

My daughter looked at the picture of the smudge-covered tiger and said in a quiet voice, "Mommy, he thinks he's clean."

Concepts we take for granted can seem like profound revelations to a child.

When it clicks, it really clicks.

Those kind of shared experiences make me slow down, take stock and appreciate the simple things in life.

By the time my head hits the pillow, the stress is gone, my thoughts are calm and a sweet contentment has filled my being.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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