I think back to the times when KB was an infant and I am amazed how I used to spend so much time singing to him to get him to sleep and gently let him in the crib holding my breath and praying he won't wake up in the process. He was a restless sleeper (and still is) and would wake up in the middle of the night for his feeds. After nursing KB, I would hand him over to B who would sweetly let me go to sleep while he took care of getting KB to sleep. B would sit in our computer chair and put his feet on the edge of our bed and hold him in his two hands with the head resting on his palms. He would gently rock him from side to side and whistle so many nice tunes that I too used to enjoy listening to in my half asleep state.
And then when KB was old enough to move to the toddler bed, we somehow moved to the story tradition. Which is still continuing except the stories are very elaborate and KB is an active participant in the story, making up Dinosaurs and character names! KG was different as an infant - I am ever grateful to her for being an easy sleeper at least the first 18m (and to some extent even now). I just had to turn the music on and leave her in her crib during bed time and she would go to sleep on her own if it was her bed time. And then suddenly when she turned 18m, that changed and she expected us to make her sleep. Accepting that was a little difficult for us since we got so spoilt by then. We slowly started moving her bed time to the same as KB's (she used to sleep an hour before him) just so we could all spend time together. She didn't demand much other than our presence so the stories for KB continued on while KG just drifted to sleep.
Now our bed time routines for the children take a good fifteen minutes. We usually read to them while giving them dinner and later in the living room. Somehow we have not had a "bed time" reading habit for them. They come into the bed room and first KG has her teeth brushed. But she only lets us brush her teeth after she has brushed it herself. In the meanwhile, I give KB his night clothes and then it is his turn to brush his teeth. He goes on and on brushing and finally comes to bed. I tuck them both in and then change into my night clothes. Then comes the fun part for all of us.
I give KG a tight crush hug and tell her "I love you" a few times and then give her a "helicopter kiss" or an "airplane kiss" or a "Kitty cat kiss" or any other animal requested by her. As soon as I give it, she says "helicopter kiss, I said it first". And then KB from his new "Spider man twin bed", would say "Mamma, I want a helicopter kiss first". Some days there are no protests. I then say "good night, sweet dreams, happy thoughts" to KG and she repeats it to me. She then says "You be (awake in the) long (winter) night", a line she learned from her brother. He said it by chance one night in our old house when he was going upstairs to sleep and from then on it stuck. Both kids say it to me every night. I then do the whole routine with KB. Except with him after I wish him sweet dreams and happy thoughts, I ask him "What are your happy thoughts today?" and then we come up with a quick bullet point summary of all the fun things that he did that day. Today for example, it was "M's birthday party, toy story tee shirt from mamma, ride on the giant wheel and carousel, eating at Baja fresh, his favorite place for cheese quesedillas". I then ask him "So will you sleep happy tonight" and he says "Yeah" and then says, "you be awake in the long winter night" and then I leave the room while B stays on to tell a story for KB. I tell KB his nap time story and B tells him his bedtime story.
Our night time sleep routine for the kids just fills me with joy. It is one of the best times of each day for me - hugging them tight and making them feel snug and warm under their blankets and making them feel secure in our love and thinking of all the happy things that happened that day. It just feels like family, those moments. B just waits patiently and when I am done with all the fuss, KG just says "Kitvaa pannanum" (I want to come closer (kitta vaa)). She goes and sticks to B's back and turns the other way and goes to sleep while he faces KB's bed and tells KB his night time story. Later when we go to bed, we move KG to her toddler bed from our bed. Of course there are nights when it is not so pleasant when either kid is sick or when KB wakes up with bad dreams. But when things are normal, those moments are blissful. I wonder how long this particular night time tradition will continue...may be 2 or 3 more years until they grow up and don't need so much fuss from me?