I have always found it fascinating that there are certain comments you hear from individuals that seem to implant within your mind. No matter how many other events or sayings are forgotten, there are triggers in your life which bring these thoughts to mind from time to time. One of these thoughts date back to over a decade ago. I was surrounded by thousands of other people in one of the largest churches in America, listening to a famous pastor of a mega-church speak about order in a man’s life. I don’t remember anything else from his forty-five minute talk except this phrase:
“When your children are young, if you don’t spend at least four nights a week putting your children to bed, you will negatively affect who they will become as an adult.”
Maybe this guy didn’t even realize he said this. Maybe it was a passing thought to fill his speaking time, but it resonated with me. My first thought was, “Where did he get his research? How did he come up with such a random number like four nights?” And then he qualified his statement by confessing to each of us how much he would travel when his children were young and he was convicted to stop that kind of schedule because he could see that it was having a detrimental effect on his young family.
This phrase has always stuck with me. For those of you who have to travel for a living, this is not written to bring guilt into your life. Certain jobs require an absence from the family at undesired times, like at bedtime. But for those of us who can be around at bedtime, and we choose to do something else, then we should reconsider just how precious this time is to young children.
As I started researching how important the last few minutes were in a child’s day, I was overwhelmed by the convincing evidence. Expert after expert stated how important the moment before bedtime was for a child. And what surprised me the most was the fact that the importance of “tucking your kid into bed” didn’t stop when they became a teenager. Laying down beside your teen in the dark in an unthreatening environment are the only times that some adolescents will share about their day and some of the things that are going on in their life.
Some of you are thinking right now, “I hate bedtime! My kid never wants to go to sleep. She fights it every night. You think it is the best time of the day, well I think it is the worst!” We had this issue with our third child. Whenever it was time to go get her nighty on and brush her teeth, she would start crying and would often need discipline in order to obey. There was one thing that would calm her down: singing to her. Let’s just say that I have been singing to her for almost two years now. She often can’t go to bed unless I sing to her for a few minutes. I know, I have created a little monster. But I am counting on the fact that she will someday get too old to want daddy to rock her and sing to her and when that time is over, that season of my life will be finished. And I will miss that.
During the last two years, I have sung many different kinds of songs to her. But recently, within the last two weeks, I have discovered a song that seems to really soften her spirit. It is a simple song that I have always liked. I learned it when I was in elementary school at a church musical. It is called the “Cares Chorus.” Here are the words:
I cast all my cares upon You
I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet
And any time I don’t know what to do
I will cast all my cares upon You
The first time I started singing this song to my daughter, she started kissing me softly all over my face. The song was speaking to her little heart, and she was demonstrating this to me. Every night for the last couple weeks I have sung other songs and she quietly lays in my arms, but the moment I start singing that song, she reaches up and starts to kiss me in such a precious manner. What is so special about this song? Four lines. How could there be that much power in such a short song? And then it hit me: this song is what our prayer should be to God every night. She doesn’t even realize why this song is touching her soul, but I think I do. One of the most powerful things we can do as humans is give our cares of the day over to God and humbly sleep the rest He has planned for us.
I now look forward to singing to her, especially this song, as it seems to have a special soothing power that brings rest to her soul. I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life. After I tuck her into bed, I go into another daughter’s bedroom and I hug her and kiss her goodnight and I lay by her and we talk for a few seconds. She is still young and her personality doesn’t demand as much attention as some of the other ones. After I tuck this one into bed, I move on to our oldest. Almost every night she asks me to lay beside her so we can talk. It doesn’t last long, usually only a couple minutes, but in those moments, we connect in a way that God intended for a father and daughter to interact. She shares some things that she wouldn’t normally share in the light of the day when everyone is around and there is constant chaos. I have grown to treasure these interactions with my young ladies. For one day they will say good-bye and I will walk into their rooms and sing a song and realize just how good those days were.
Never underestimate how valuable those last few moments of the day are for your child. You have the ability to soothe their soul, and in this stressful world of unrelenting chaos, it can become the most important five minutes of their day.