Getting kids to sleep can be tricky. Or worse.
Lately Little Hands has been struggling to learn the skill of winding down to go to sleep in a room with other kids. The twins hardly know anything different.
Not that bed time has always been clear sailing with them. In fact, some old friends of theirs have had to make a return visit to help out Little Hands long after I had farewelled them for what I assumed was forever.
Strange to say, we have fairies that live in our house... or at least, they visit at night time. You can hear their little fairy bells is you lie still enough in your bed at night. And if you pretend to be asleep you just might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them when they think you are asleep and come to dance in your bedroom.
They started visiting our girls' bedroom when Hope and Miffy were about two and they were beginning to take turns in staging stand-offs at bed-time. Mostly over irrational issues like the placement of their beds or the colour of their sheets. We tried a number of different tacks first and we were getting into behavioural pattern of needing an adult to be in the room until both kids were fast asleep. It was eating into our evenings and didn't feel healthy at all.
So the fairies, after breaking the worst and most irrational stand-off to date, started to visit and with them emerged a few rules which helped our family settle into a bed-time routine which still stands strong. The fairies wouldn't come if there was an adult in the room, so we would tuck the kids in then rush out of their bedroom with whispered reminders that if we were seen there by the fairies they might get scared and not come. Then when the initial "magic" started wearing off we began encouraging the girls to be quiet so that they could listen for the fairy bells... and when there were no bells around, the scurrying of elves' feet up and down the walls.
So many nights after this short routine, which was markedly devoid of tantrums and conflicts, I would collapse on the couch next to Matt and say Oh if the fairies and elves left us a bill for the work that they do, you know, I think that'd I'd pay it. No questions asked.
And gradually over time, without any of us noticing, the fairies and elves stopped visiting. The girls started listening to CDs at bedtime and family life moved on.
It's with genuine surprise then, that as a last resort to settle a restless Sammy I encouraged him to listen for the fairy bells which had worked wonders with his sisters at the same age. You would have thought that he had read the script... his response to the fairies (despite his older sisters' rather unsubtle participation in the charade) has been nothing short of breathtaking.
I remember reading an article a long time ago suggesting that sometimes using irrational reasoning to settle irrational behaviour might be a valuable tool in a parent's toolbox. I never thought that I would parent with imaginary creatures. But, well, all I can say is that for us the fairies have been a priceless way to cement good winding down routines at night.
Thank you fairies!