If you’ve experienced the joy of becoming a parent, you’ve either already experienced or will one day in the not-too-distant future experience one of parenthood’s most challenging moments. No, it’s not changing diapers. No, it’s not waking up all night long (though honestly that can be pretty terrible too). It’s the bedtime routine with a toddler. Anyone who has been through it knows that you probably better start around 5 in the afternoon if you want to have your two-year-old asleep in bed before 10.
Not true, you say? Well then please, send us your book. Because our bedtime experience is an all out ordeal that includes convincing an overtired, blonde-haired, blue-eyed little boy to  lay down to get his diaper changed;  let us take off his clothes from the day (probably his basketball clothes which he loves and wears every day);  let us put on his pajamas (which he does not love);  open his mouth long enough to scrub the “sugar bugs” off his teeth; and  hold his head still long enough to floss the sugar bugs between his teeth (yes, we make him floss every night). At that point, and 500 calories later, we are ready to kneel by his bed, pray, tuck him in, and slip out of his room so we can try to get a little more work done. Just when we’re getting back in the work groove, we hear the doorknob to his room jiggle, and out he comes running. So in we go to tuck him back in. That game then gets repeated about 20 times, depending on the night.
Now when the two-year-old was a newborn, we were pretty good about reading a story together every night before bed. However, up until recently, we had fallen out of the habit. After the exhausting getting-ready-for-bed process, we found there wasn’t a lot of interest, energy, or time left on anyone’s part to sit down and read together. The toddler needed to get to sleep. We needed to get to work, or at least have some downtime to detox from the day. (Sidebar: Before we had our own kids, we once smugly labeled a friend who confided how she couldn’t wait to get her kids down for bed each night so she could have some alone time as a poor parent. Two kids later, we’re less judgmental and a bit–okay a lot–more understanding.)
This all changed recently thanks to a unique, new bedroom decoration. A helpful family member who was looking to unload what they thought to be an eyesore: a heavy, old, shabby zebra lamp. We, however, recognized the piece as a jewel that would fit splendidly in our boys’ jungle-themed bedroom. (One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?) With some fresh paint and a new lamp shade, the vintage zebra lamp was looking bright and lively once again as we placed it in the bedroom.
The best part was yet to come. One night, in the middle of yet another bedtime routine struggle, inspiration struck in a moment of desperation. “Jack,” I said to my boy as he kicked his legs while I tried to get him in his pajamas, “let me get your PJs on, then we can read under your zebra lamp.” His legs froze as he processed my peace offering, then he slowly lowered them to the ground. We finished the rest of the routine pretty quickly at that point. Then began one of our favorite new traditions: bedtime reading under the light of the zebra lamp.
While bedtime routine is never a piece of cake, our little guy is much more willing to help us get through it as he looks forward to reading together afterward. More importantly, we’ve enjoyed some real quality time together. He talks about reading together throughout the day, and he always makes sure we come into his room with our own books so we can all spend some time reading together under the zebra lamp.