Bedtime Lessons from a Five Year Old

Coach Heidi
Lessons on Bedtime from a Singing Five Year Old

“Hhhmmmm… la la la…….mmmm…..yeah, yeah yeah”


30 seconds later:

“Ahhhhhhh, ah ah ah ah. La la la la, la la la la la la. Ah, ah ah ah ah ah ah. The girl who has…everything.”


15 seconds later.

“Joy to the world. Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah..”

And so on.

This was the usual soundtrack of my mornings when my daughter was a young child. She almost always started singing before she was out of her bed (and still does sometimes). She didn’t discriminate with her choice of material – Disney songs, made up gibberish, hymns – anything was fair game and her repertoire was vast. I don’t know that she’s ever had a favorite song – singing is just something that brings her joy.

Which gets me thinking about what needs to be in place for a human being to wake up filled with joy.  I’m happy that she was content enough in her life to wake up in a good mood, for sure.  Not every kid has that opportunity, so I’m grateful my spouse and I had the means to provide the environment that allowed the feelings that fostered ample singing.   But it also makes me wonder what we can learn from the scenario. Why was she so joyful when she woke up?  How can we adults remember what that feeling is like and re-cultivate it for ourselves?  Of course, there’s the whole “being an adult means having myriad responsibilities, along with the knowledge of the pain and despair that’s so prevalent in the world today” thing.  But what if we could set ourselves up for a happier start to the day?  What if we could wake up singing?

When she was little, my daughter went to bed at approximately the same time each evening.  She watched 15 to 20 minutes of a children’s video followed by a warm bath, followed by a story read to her in dim lighting.  On went her lamb nightlight and a recording of running water.  Meanwhile, she crawled into her bed, adorned with her favorite things, and got snuggled under her blankets.  We talked briefly about the day, said a prayer and turned out the lights.  It’s worth saying that sometimes she sang herself to sleep, and sometimes she was uncooperative and moody.  But that was the routine, and we rarely deviated from it unless we were out of town or had a special event to attend in the evening.

When we stuck to this routine, a child that woke up singing was the norm. In the hours leading up to bedtime, she was fully present in what she was doing – not multitasking, but rather, immersed in the task or activity at hand.

So, friends, what might we learn from this? The lessons that follow are what seemed to work for my singing five year old, so I’d invite you to take what resonates for you and see what fits your own repertoire.

  1. When feasible, go to bed at the same time every night.
  2. Take some time to wind down quietly in dim lighting before you try to fall asleep.
  3. Read a chapter – just one, not the whole thing – in a book that you love.
  4. Adorn your sleeping space with things that add beauty to your life, but reduce the unnecessary clutter. Your physical environment makes a difference, so it can be helpful to adjust where you have agency.
  5. Say goodnight to the people with whom you share space, and practice whatever ceremonies or rituals (spiritual or not) that are important to you.
  6. Consider adding white noise. It can help if you have trouble falling asleep or wake easily due to being a light sleeper.
  7. During the day, try to do one thing at a time. Easier said than done? Absolutely. Learning to single task takes persistence and practice and a willingness to try again. Resist the urge to open 10 tabs on your computer. Turn the sounds off of your phone unless you are an on-call ER doctor or OBGYN. Sip your coffee, and just sip your coffee. Go for a walk around the block, and just walk. Talk to a colleague, and truly listen to that colleague because that’s the only thing you are doing at that moment. Allow yourself to be present in whatever you are doing, one thing at a time.

There is wisdom in the routines that work for young children. Getting enough rest is an important component of joy. And there is a lesson in the way children are present to their routines.

We adults can take a cue from those who are small, and if we do, perhaps we too can wake up singing.

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