I've talked a little before about the stories we tell our children at bed time. I thought I should expand a little on the routine we follow.
Tonight has been no different to most other nights. We have both spent some considerable time settling the children into bed. Staying with each until we are sure they have slipped into a settled sleep.
I often listen enviously to the stories told by other parents of how their children obediently wish them a good night before taking themselves upstairs to bed. Or how they quickly kiss their little darlings before retreating downstairs to spend quality adult time together.
Our bedtime routine has never been that.
From their respective first nights both our children have sought reassurance and attention as they settle for the night. The nightmares that haunt them still. Now occasionally. In the beginning more frequently. They required from the earliest days additional attention be paid. Requiring us to do what we could to ensure their darkness found as little purchase as possible in our children's bedtime anxiety.
So we spend time with the children at bedtime. Stroking our son's head. Holding our daughter while telling and re-telling her the stories she loves. Waiting for them to fall asleep. Often desperate to do other things. To relax downstairs. To spend grown up time with J.
I often wonder whether we pander to our children. When telling other parents about our routine. Expressing envy at the ease with which their children make their way to bed. Those parents have often suggested if not directly then with their expressions that they agree with my concern.
And yet, on the occasions we have attempted to emulate those other parents. Encouraging our children to bed independently of our attention, of our spending time with them to settle them. We have noticed a marked shift in their mood. They sleep less well. Their levels of stress, of neediness, of tiredness increase in the following days. It's not a manipulative process. To them it is imperceptible. To us it is clear. Tangible and regretted.
For us that's the difference between our, adopted, children and those of our friends who have always lived secure in the instinctive security of their birth family.
The twilight time, both physically and metaphorically, as our children drift to sleep is, we have found, when they are most vulnerable.
When our son is most susceptible to the traumas and fears of the past resurrecting themselves. Even now five years after his joining our family.
When our daughter is most vulnerable. When the ephemeral, instinctive fears resurface.
So we go that extra mile. Every evening. Spending time. Soothing. Cooing.
Adoption a child? Be prepared to go that extra mile. Our experience has been that it's not only your duty. It's also worth it. That little extra effort each day makes a difference, a considerable difference, to our children's lives.