Daddy Central

Here’s a post from my old yahoo group on a popular question : how to cope with the chaos that Daddy’s daily arrival home wrecks on the peaceful pre-bedtime routine?! How to honor Dad’s need to see his children – and their need for him – whilst still preserving critical rhythms which support the children’s healthy early bedtime and the parents need for couple time?
Of course it has to be “Daddy Central” when your husband come home, Member X! What an exciting time of day – sounds just great – because it’s not just centered around the girls – it’s centered around the important daily celebration of Dad coming home.I don’t know how old your children are but something to think about in all this is that at some point in the evening while they are still up, it could be good for them to see that you and he need a few quiet minutes to talk together. Here is a point where they experience that though they are important, you and your husband’s relationship is important too – that Daddy is as special to you (and you to him) as they are to the both of you.
Once he gets in the door and everyone jumps on him etc, organize things so that he then helps you quite them down. You need to talk this through with him so that you and he are on the same page – on this and  everything else to do with parenting, hopefully! This can be tricky! Dad might want to play and unwind as much as the children do! One possible cue (that you and Dad have worked out together in advance)could be like this:  At just the right moment you say, “Daddy and I need to check in for a few minutes and then we’ll be back to you”.
They can play in another room – and really, at first maybe for only 5 minutes so you and he can talk for a moment – and it will take time and perseverance to do this – they are not going to be willing at first! And obviously, if he gets home late and they are very little, then this is not realistic – this can be saved for a weekend perhaps. As Member X mentioned in her post the other day, it is vital for parents to maintain and cherish their bond together – absolutely, absolutely!! And isn’t it important for our children to witness that?It may be that this few minutes of checking in between you and your partner takes place during dinner – that after everyone has had a chance to share their news that you say to the children, “OK – now it’s time for me and Daddy to talk for a bit – you may listen”. It is good for us to model conversation for our children. This is not aboutVictorian ‘children shall be seen and not heard’ – it’s practical Child Rearing 101! How can they learn if they never get to experience how adults talk and listen and share? And if life is not centered on them but rather includes them, then they need to see how we talk with another adult. It is important for them to listen in to all that interesting grown up stuff (within limits) and soak it all up and to see that they are not the only important ones. How much easier it is for a little person to relax into life when she or he isn’t center stage all the time!
Another important consideration here, though, is time. What time is it when Daddy gets home? If it’s not until after 6 or even 7, it may well be that eating together is a laudable but impossible goal. Obviously it is ideal if a family can eat together – but work schedules do not always allow for this. And though some people will try to simply adjust the children’s sleep schedule to accommodate this (late to bed and late to rise) this will not work for everyone. There are a significant number of  children whose body rhythms dictate that they are tired by early evening and that they rise not long after the sun. This is a really healthy thing – do you really want to mess with it? The human body, like every other living thing, has real and discernible rhythms – and rhythms are a key to good health.
And is it really worth it if your children are cranky, whiny and miserable because they are utterly exhausted? It is unfair to expect them to behave well under such circumstances. What benefit is it to anyone in the family to sit through excruciating meals with horribly tired children?
Again – not all children are like this. Some adapt well to having their internal clocks moved to suit adult schedules. You will know – if the children are miserable and unpleasant to be with, it is likely that they simply cannot adjust. Have a look whether they truly are able to sleep late in the morning as well – children under 4 need about 12 hours of sleep; 4 – 6 about 10 hours; 7 and up around 9 hours. (And teens also need about 9 hours of sleep – they also get cranky and horrible – but that’s another story!!)
If this is the case in your family, can you try to feed the children first and get them bathed and in their jammies before Dad gets home? Then when Daddy arrives there is 5 minutes of rough housing. Don’t let this go too long as it can become impossible to calm the children down again. And, unfortunately, there are a significant number of children who simply cannot handle pre bed time exuberance, no matter how brief. They spiral out of control and cannot then get to sleep. They need Daddy t arrive home peacefully and quietly – quite an exercise in self control for a husband to take on!
Assuming the children can handle some “Daddy Central” time, Daddy needs to be aware that he is responsible for transitioning to quiet time and to bed. Once play time is over,  he can start to quietly hum a soft song whilst “putting the house to sleep” – closing curtains, dimming lights and then quietly taking the children to their bedrooms (or to the family bed). He reads or tells a story, says a verse or a prayer and sits with them for 10 minutes while they fall to sleep.
In the meantime, Mom cooks dinner for herself and her husband.For many couples, this solves it all – children see Dad, children get to bed at a decent time and get the sleep they need, dad gets to have a special time with the children, and parents have precious couple time.

Posted on April 10, 2008 in Family Life and Parenting, Kindergarten (and pre-K)

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