If I tell someone "my favorite time of day is bedtime", I sound like one of those cliche moms who can't wait for her kids to be out of her hair. That's not the reasons bedtime is my favorite time. And it's not actually the bed part, it's the bedtime routine part. Here's how ours goes, on a typical day if I'm putting her to bed by myself. All times are approximate, and subject to change based on Reilly. And bedtime is millions funner when Daddy joins us, but this is when it's just special Mama-Reilly bedtime.
6:30 Heat up milk bottle, try to sit with Reilly and calm her down, but she wiggles away and stumbles around the house drinking it.
6:45 Milk bottle finished, time for vitamins and teeth brushing.
6:50 Change Reilly into size 6 diaper and jammies if they are not already on. Make sure Elmo, Prayer Bear, and Soft Soft Blankie are all in crib (these are her BFFs, one in each arm, blanket on chest). Close shades, turn off light, turn on hall light.
6:55 Sit on the bed in her room against the pillows, and sit her on my lap facing me. Stare at her tired face with giant eyes that seem to be blinking in slow motion. Read her "The Bedtime Book", which I actually memorized and just recite as if it's a story. As the story is nearing it's end, Reilly begins saying "Nee nee nee!" and holding up her arm, signing milk. This is how she asks my to sing her favorite song, sang every night about 6 times, "Skiddamarink". She signs "milk" imitating the hand motions that I do.
After the story, we sing Skiddamarink at least 2, usually 3 times in a row. The first version we do hand motions, then during the second and third encores, she lays her head down on my chest. She only lifts her head at the end of the song, to once again request "Nee nee nee", then lays back down again. I rub her back and rock her back and forth as my song get more and more like a lullaby. This moment is what makes it my favorite time of day. I wonder if she remembers my heartbeat, and is still soothed by it. And I am at such peace knowing that she is so calm in my arms.
After another song request, I eventually have to say "Not yet, time for prayers." At this point, she claps her hand together and says "AMEN" with an emphatic nod of her head. I put my hands together and pray on behalf of her, thanking God each day for his gifts and blessings of that day. Always thanking him for his Son. During the prayer, Reilly usually prys my hands apart so that she can lay back down on my chest. When we are done, we again say "Amen". I lay her down with her BFFs, and she requests on more song. She gets as short Skiddamarink while she is laying down, then usually says "Nah-Nigh" while I'm leaving.
We never got into the bath at nighttime for a few reasons. One, bathtime riles Reilly up - she's obsessed, she splashes and kicks and has a party and never wants to leave. Not so conducive to bedtime. I never understood how people pulled off a supposed "soothing bath" in their bedtime routine. I think baths only get soothing after the age of 24. Bathtime at this age is a tiny little pool party. Another reason, is that she never really gets that dirty, so there isn't a need for it. Clearly, if she had syrup in her hair or mud on her knees, she gets a bath no matter what time of day. But she is usually relatively clean, so her morning bath is usually sufficient.
So that is the bedtime routine we have adopted. We lengthened our routine several months back, as suggested by our doctor, to keep her sleeping longer and not wake up in the middle of the night. She went through a 4 days stretch where she was waking once in the night crying. We made her bedtime routine longer and more structured, and she has never woken up since. Weird, but it worked! And she will get sleepy no matter when we do the routine. Today, she went without a nap, so by 5:45 she was asking for milk. By 6:00 I was singing to her, and she didn't make a peep. Girlfriend knows when she needs some sleep (just like her Mama).
I am always so interested in other people bedtime rituals - feel free to share them!