Ever since my twelve-year-old daughter Daina was little, she called our nighttime ritual “bednight.” Here are a few of the usual contexts: “I’m going bednight,” “I’m ready for bednight,” and “Do you want to go bednight?” Although she’s well past needing anyone to read her bednight stories or to even use the term bednight to make it sound less threatening (“Go to bed” sounds so lonely, and “Say goodnight” sounds so evilly permanent), we still use the term even with no children present. It just stuck, and I have a feeling it will stay around now that we have two more little ones to coax into unconsciousness.
When my husband and I were children, our mothers read us Bible stories before putting us to bed. Because neither of our brothers have children, we’ve inherited what seems to be dozens of children’s Bible storybooks from both sides so that we could, if pressed, open a Revelation-less evangelical used bookstore.
But another book stands out as a staple from my bedtime memories. It was called, ever so appropriately, My Goodnight Book. The book takes the reader through a “night in the life of” this Everyday Jane who is clearly tired (see toddler trademark eye rub below) and fully equipped, layered pajamas and apathetic bear in hand, to go to bed. The ritual is tracked through the pages of this board book, which I still have in my son Atticus’s stash of “try and tear this one–ha!” books.
I remember reading and reading and reading this book or, rather, having it read to me, as I likely procrastinated through the whole bednight process. And, looking back, it was such a very direct approach compared to the bednight books I see nowadays. It was none of that Goodnight Moon nonsense where the reader is encouraged to talk to inanimate objects. My mom knew what she wanted–my three-year-old self in bed now–and she just went for it: here’s a goodnight book, so goodnight.
I’ve overcorrected, perhaps, with my own kiddos. We tackle gritty fare when the sun sets. With Daina, I must have read this book a thousand times:
It is one of my favorite children’s board books, and it’s one that every parent should have. Another bednight book I love is How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?
This was a Daina hand-me-down to Atticus, and he adores dinosaurs (hey, that rhymed!), so the book hits several right notes with him.
There is something about books and bed that just feels right. Although the natural connection is the peace and solitude that happens in the evenings and how that makes it easier to read and just be with a book, I think this is only half of it.
Perhaps the more important half is that we are willfully ushering ourselves into our dreams. We are calling together everything and everyone we want to take with us, and we pack them tight into our mind’s weathered case. The book is that “all aboard” call before the train sets out.
We kiss a cheek and squeeze a hand. And then we go.