Do you have any memories of your father tucking you in at night? If you’re a dad, are you making those memories now?
Special things happen when dad tucks the children in.
I was chatting with a friend about bedtime woes and her 6-year-old daughter. She said bedtime went smoothly with one exception. No complaints. Just a yearning that her husband – dad – be more involved with tuck-in time.
The yearning came not from her having to do “one more thing” at the end of the day, but because she had sweet memories of times her own father would tuck her in at bedtime.
She completely understands that yes, he’s exhausted, he’s the primary wage earner and his days are longer and more intense. He comes home, eats with the family, and then crashes in a much-needed release of the day’s stress. She accepts that. But my friend feels both her daughter and husband are missing out. Her own father, also exhausted, not certain of the bedtime routine, would occasionally tuck her and her brothers and sisters in. She treasures those memories even though – or maybe because - her father died some time ago.
When dad tucks you in at bedtime, it makes memories for the whole family.
Andie Raynor is a friend and neighbor. Our kids went to school together. She’s also a minister, hospice chaplain, and a writer. Her most recent book, A Light on the Corner, is a collection of essays in which her father’s influence is front-and-center. What better excuse to go out to lunch than to talk about memories of her dad tucking her in?
My dad didn’t tuck us in a lot. The memories I do have of when my dad gave the ‘last goodnight’ but the ones I have are precious to me.
My father worked many different kinds of jobs. He was a writer, but then we had 6 kids, so we also had to eat so he did a million different jobs. He was traveling as a sales rep for a company. The fact that he’d been traveling or working long hours has me cherish those bedtimes even more.
Bedtime with dad would always come with a story. He wrote children’s books so he would try out stories on us. When he would say goodnight or tuck us in we’d say “Dad can you tell us a story? Or we would say “Can you tell us the one about....?”
And he would do our prayers with us. We would do either “Now I lay me down to sleep...” which was terrifying. He also taught us,
Five little angels around my bed
One at the foot, one at the head,
One to watch, and one to pray
And one to chase my cares away.
We’d go through our “God bless” list together.
Andie and I shared a few more stories about our dads and memories of tuck-in time. Her father didn’t sing, but mine would sing “I Love You, A Bushel and a Peck” from Guys and Dolls, or some obscure song he learned from his ukulele-playing flapper mom.
So there’s some history, culture sharing, family identity, on top of memories and making memories.
Another thing that happens when dad tucks you in?
Increased language development and literacy. No kidding.
When dad tucks the kids in, his approach is somewhat different than mom’s. Citing a study done at Harvard University, Elisabeth Duursma writes in The Sidney Morning Herald
"It seems that fathers make different and unique contributions to children's development when reading to them."
That story can be read in full here.
The hidden gem in having dad take over the bedtime story is that all those dads who search for a decompressing moment with a little screen time, would probably decompress faster, connect with their children, build memories, by going straight to tuck-in time.
With all those benefits that come along with bedtime, the entire family should be in on this together. Making memories, keeping a balanced schedule, prioritizing connection, literacy, mindfulness.
One super simple tool to help is the Bedtime Blueprint. A planner for bedtime, giving you everything you need to know about planning for sleep in one place. No more hunting around for sleep tips – they’ll all be on the family fridge. Get it HERE.