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Bedtime Battles

Bedtime Battles

To be honest, the hair on my neck may have raised just a slight bit. I felt his presence, heard the barest whisper before I saw him.

“He better not be out of bed again,” I muttered.

Behind the door, at the top step, a pajama-waif approached on stealthy feet and waited. It wasn’t his first try at bedtime escape that night.

I strained to hear inside the silence.

The clock ticked. A floorboard creaked.

I dabbed my wet hands against the terry kitchen towel, brushed them against my apron then turned toward the door that inched open. My six-year-old-grandson appeared bit by bit, cloaked in shadow. Round eyes searched from under black lashes, hopeful and questioning. Bright smiling train faces streaked across Zak’s zippered green fleece pajamas. Dot to dot freckles speckled his pale face. His clear blue eyes looked like black globes.

“I’m scared.” He said, barely audible, a testing of grand-parental temperature.

I sighed.

It is hard to react well to an unravelling finale. Sneak-out conflict waged inside of my Grandma-heart.

“Is it real?” I wondered.

“Is he being disobedient?”

I thought back to my years as a young mom. Images of impatience and frustration sped through my memory like a race car. I remembered how often I checked the clock for the magic bedtime hour, forgetting that getting there can be like running a marathon at the end of the day rather than a sprint to the finish.

As a mom I yearned to end the day with sweetness. I wanted bedtime to be a period at its end. When it became a comma, turmoil churned, and I was as tired as my little escapees.

“Why is my child out of bed?” is a question wrapped in fog. It is one of the mysteries of life, and frankly the battle has just as much to do with how I react as it does with winning the stay-in-bed war.

Twenty years later, I contemplated the white-faced Zak in front of me and realized that answers were still hard to pin down.

Let me suggest three questions to consider as you assess the child on your stairs.

1. Did I prepare well? Check routine and structure. Has everything been taken care of? As much as possible stick to a specific time to begin the nightly checklist. Putting on PJ’s helps distinguish day is done, night is here, and sleep is the next step. Every family has its structure. When our children were little our checklist included a drink, bathroom stop, and brushing teeth.

2. Did I promote rest and relaxation? Check the tone. Have I helped him or her settle down? As best as possible transition to an atmosphere of calm and quiet at least 30 minutes before sleep time. Screens should be off. Sing a song. Read or tell a story. A Bible story ends the day with truth, and I loved to leave my children with thoughts of Jesus as they went to sleep. Dim the lights. Bring your voice down a notch. Keep your tone soothing and firm. Install confidence that bed is the place to be.

  1. Did I provide care and love? Check security needs. Have I assured my child of Jesus’ unconditional love and of mine? Children have an insatiable need for affection. At the end of the day they need appropriate touch, hugs and cuddles. Nighttime sometimes breeds genuine fear. When the house is quiet, children often say the most significant things. Listen well.

Of course the difficulty comes in that every one of these suggestions can be manipulated, by intention or by habit. Even the best-laid plans are subservient to monsters in closets and miniature bladders. Take comfort in the fact that Jesus knows exactly what is going on, and ask Him for wisdom.

So, the next time expectations are at war with reality in the form of a ghostly little person, take a deep breath, pray and ask the three questions.

Did I prepare well?

Did I promote rest and relaxation?

Did I provide care and love?

Those questions may provide an indication of what can be done to remedy the situation.

Honestly, I’m not sure I solved the “Why is Zak up?” question.

Zak and I repeated the routine, a round of potty, looking under the bed and tucking in again.

“When I was little,” I began. He looked at me and soberly contemplated that thought. “I got scared too.”

It came back to me from faraway, and I prayed for him what had once calmed my own heart.

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”Proverbs 3:24 (NIV).

I reminded Zak that Jesus would stay beside him all night.

Then I tip-toed through the dark. I dodged toys like landmines, paused outside my grandson’s room and waited. His restless moving stilled. All was quiet again. I took a deep breath went back to the waiting dishes.

None of it had magically disappeared. But years are shorter now, seasons faster. I have hindsight vision. Zak will be grown in a blink of the eye, and there will always be housework to do.

Those nights, the ones that test our dog-eared tired souls, are reminders of the One who sustains through all hours of each day, awake or asleep.

I picked up a dish and filed the interruption away under precious.

By: Sylvia Schroeder serves as Women’s Care Coordinator at Avant Ministries. She and her husband raised four children in Italy and Germany, where they were missionaries with Avant. Their children are all married and they have twelve grandchildren. Visit her blog, When the House is Quiet, at

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One Comment

  1. Lovingly I remember! Oh the trials of bedtime. I pray I will use those questions with my grand babies! Love you sister!

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