You must know that in my experience, boys (and most children of either gender) are rather wiggly. Also, in my observation of my kids, being still for bedtime prayers appears to require more effort than learning to ride a bike, tie shoes, or climb a mountain. They just can’t do it for longer than 45 seconds.
Ok, ok, that’s an exaggeration. However, my kids are wiggly. Very wiggly. Sometimes, bedtime prayers are more of a chore than a beloved family ritual.
A few nights ago, we sped through dinner to attend a children’s holy hour at our parish, led by the bishop. (awesome, right?) Remembering how *not great* the boys behaved just two days prior in daily Mass, I figured we’d sit in the back and leave after 15 or so minutes. Anything longer than that, and we’d have three little boys misbehaving due to boredom, tiredness, and overall not wanting to be there. Instead, we stayed for the entire hour.
I honestly don’t know how we were able to stay for an hour of prayer between 6:30 and 7:30pm. That is a hard hour! But it happened. Maybe it was because the bishop was there and the graces were pouring down on us, I don’ know.
I do know that all 5 kids were still wiggly. I heard “when are we going?” whispered at least 10 times. I had to take one to the bathroom, take the baby outside a few times, and remind a few to stop playing with their hair. And yet, we stayed for the whole hour, and it wasn’t torture. It was lovely, graced, family prayer time.
We told the kids upon leaving that because we just spent an hour in prayer together, we’d forgo our regular family bedtime prayers that night.
And then while I was helping my boys brush teeth and get in jammies, the surprise came.
“Why aren’t we praying tonight?” asked my 6yr old.
“Well, because we just spent an hour together in adoration and praying the rosary…”
“But I wanted to say other prayers, too.” —What?! Who are you?, I was thinking.
“Ok, we can pray again. I will tuck you in and then we can pray. Remember, we can pray anytime we want.” At this point, I was concealing my shock that my 4 and 6 yr old, usually groaning about how tiiiiired they are, were practically whining that they hadn’t prayed enough yet.
And so we prayed a few more prayers, “For all great time we had today, for the great time at church, and that we all have good dreams. Amen.”
You know what I think helped make this possible? Our nightly ritual, the routine, of always gathering together as a family, in front of our little oratory, our prayer table, to close our day in God’s presence. Kids love and thrive on routine, and rituals can help keep a family close-knit. Our boys may groan about how tired they are, but they also hold tightly to the familiar rituals I’m hoping are bringing peace and comfort to their souls.