I have been thinking for weeks on how to even describe this somewhat odd parenting hack for putting my oldest daughter, Grace, to bed at night.
Grace (4) has always been difficult to put to bed. It seems like the second we get a routine down that works, she decides that she wants to change everything. My husband and I have gone back and forth taking turns putting her to sleep to see who she responds best to but after a few days of it working it all blows up and we are back at square one. Our biggest issues seemed to be insane demands from her, not listening to us during the bedtime routine and her either arguing or crying as we tried to leave the room.
About a month ago before bedtime her and I were playing a make believe game where I was her “teacher” (with a British accent). It was close to bedtime so I tried telling her to go get ready for bed as her “teacher”. To my surprise she listened immediately. No back talk. No argument. Just walked right to her room, put on her pajamas right away, brushed her teeth, went to the bathroom and set up her room (lamp on, nightlight on, white noise on). Ok…probably a fluke I thought. Then she came out of her room and asked me if the “teacher” could put her to bed. I decided I would play along with her because she was having fun.
So I kept my English accent going, read her a few pages of Harry Potter (SO much fun in an accent) and rocked her. While I rocked her she told me about her day and about her parents and her sister, as if I was a kind stranger that she could confide in. We talked for a while and then I laid her down in bed. She then asked me if Mama could come and give her a kiss. Ok…how was I going to do this, since I am supposed to be the “teacher” right now…? I spun in a circle and began talking normal again, gave her goodnight kisses, spun back around and I had my accent and was again the teacher. I walked to the door and she said goodnight perfectly, no argument, no tears, NOTHING.
I was sure it was just an abnormal night and wouldn’t work again. Or worse that this was the new routine I would have to keep up with forever.
The next night she asked me if the teacher could put her to sleep again. And again the night went perfectly. With her chatting with me and breaking down how her day went and all about what her and her Mama did that day.
For the past month her “teacher” has been putting her to bed every night. And every night she enjoys telling me about her day, asking me where I am from in England, if I live near Hogwarts, do I know Harry Potter, do I put other kids to bed to…etc. I have developed quite the character back story. My name is Mrs. Doubtfire (😂), I live in London, I put 4 other children to bed after her (Julie, Liam, Rebecca and a baby named Stephanie) and tell her every night that out of all the children she is my favorite and goes to bed the best.
I thought this was all just a silly game and have reiterated to her over and over that we are playing make believe - just so I am not confusing her too much. She will say “I know you are my Mama”. Phew - I didn’t want to mess her up in any way and have her lose sight of reality.
However, recently I have been thinking more about why this seems to be working so well for her and why she loves it so much. I truly think that, to her, Mrs. Doubtfire is a friend. It is someone that isn’t Mom or Dad, that she can tell things to in confidence. It is a way for her to breakdown and process her day with me at home. It is a safe way for her to process her feelings and someone, besides her parents, who tells her how special and perfect she is. I almost think of this “character” as a diary for her at this point. You can see in her face how excited she is for bedtime now so she can talk to Mrs. Doubtfire. I KNOW it is odd. I’m sure it sounds ridiculous even. But seeing every night how well this routine is working and how happy it makes her to get to talk to a close “friend” right before bed; that’s enough for me to keep Mrs. Doubtfire going.
And, as a bonus, my English accent is pretty badass at this point 💁🏻♀️