Daddy: So, what did we do when we woke up today, Trystan?
Trystan: Ummm, I don’t know.
Daddy: Well, when you woke up, you came into Mommy and Daddy’s room and climbed into bed with us remember?
Trystan: Yeah! Mommy, Daddy and Zoey
Daddy: Yeah, Zoey was there too, good memory. What did we do?
Trystan: We cuddled and said “Good morning!”
Daddy: That’s right! We all said good morning to each other and cuddled on Mommy and Daddy’s bed. Then what?
Trystan: I don’t know.
Daddy: Did we have breakfast?
Trystan: Yeah! We have eggs and soldiers. I ate Mommy’s egg.
Daddy: Yes you did. You wanted cereal and after you finished your cereal, you asked for one of Mommy’s eggs.
Daddy: That was nice of Mommy huh? You know she loves you very much?
Daddy: Then what did we do?
Trystan: We played in the yard.
Daddy: That’s right. We had a race, remember?
Trystan: Yeah, you made me sad, Daddy.
Daddy: I made you sad, why?
Trystan: Because… you made me sad.
Daddy: Oh, were you sad when we raced and Daddy won?
Trystan: Yeah, you made me sad.
Daddy: I’m sorry you were sad. I wasn’t trying to make you sad. I was trying to teach you how not to give up. Daddy was winning but then you gave up, so you lost.
Trystan: Yeah. That made me sad.
Daddy: You know what?
Daddy: I’m so proud of you.
Daddy: I’m so proud of you because the next time we raced, Daddy was winning and you didn’t give up and you won!
Trystan: Yeah, I win!
Daddy: Yes, you did and I was so proud of you; for winning and for not giving up. I’m also so proud of you because you were soooo good at church today.
Trystan: Yeah, I was quiet and I said all the words.
Daddy: Yes, you did.
Trystan: And I sing too!
Daddy: Yes, you did! You were quiet, you sang the songs and you said ALL the words. And I knew you were tired too and you were still sooo good.
Trystan: Thank you Daddy.
Daddy: Do you remember when you were playing and you hit Zoey in the head with your sword?
Daddy: That made Daddy, sad.
Trystan: I hurt Zoey, and I made Zoey cry?
Daddy: That’s right. You did, and Daddy doesn’t like it when Trystan or Zoey get hurt. And I know you don’t like hurting people. So tomorrow, when you’re playing, can I ask you to be more careful and try not to hit Zoey in the head with your sword?
Trystan: Yeah. But I catch her Daddy.
Daddy: Yes, when she was falling off the rocking horse, you caught her and she didn’t get hurt. That made me very happy. You’re such a good brother (giving him a big hug). Zoey is such a lucky sister. I love you so much!
Trystan: Thank you, Daddy! I love you too, Daddy.
It is time consuming and it definitely helps to be a stay home parent to be able to do these exercises with your children as part of the bedtime routine. Trystan goes to daycare Tuesday through Thursday, so I have much less material to address during those days. But it makes me pay more attention to him before and after daycare.
I have found that not only does this exercise help him grow intellectually, it also fosters our communication and trust. He is so open to sharing how things that happen to him during the day make him feel. Recently, he started expressing more abstract concepts, like love. Tonight, for example, he recalled that his cousins came to visit saying, “Charlotte, James and Theresa came to play with me. I love my cousins, Daddy.” It makes me so proud of him, so I give him a squeeze and a kiss and say, “You do? Well, your cousins love you too, Trystan.”
I feel bare sharing this night time routine with the world. It is something that brings me a lot of joy and peace within my family. Half of it was taken from the night prayers that my mom used to say with us when we were children. The other half comes from concepts from The Whole-Brain Child, St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and elements of my and Shelly’s own personal growth. The whole prayer routine will continue to evolve with the kids until their own personal relationship with God becomes the primary motivation for their conversations with Him.
I follow my inspiration to write tonight with the hope that it inspires even just one other person out there to be a better parent. Our children will change the world, our guidance will influence how.
Trystan’s Night Prayers
1. Good Night Prayer
Good night my dear Jesus, the one I love best.
This day is now finished, and now I must rest.
You’ve blessed me this day, now bless me this night,
and keep me from danger until morning and light.
2. Prayer Before Sleep
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
If I should live for other days, I pray the Lord to guide my ways.
3. Guardian Angel Prayer
Angel of God my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here,
ever this night be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide, amen.
God Bless __________.
This is when we list off the people we have interacted with during the day and others who have asked for prayers. If I’ve ever told you we’d pray for you, this is where your name and intention would go.
Thank you for _________.
This part is by far the cutest right now. It makes me laugh and brings me tears at the same time, because as Trystan thanks God for our house, windows, cups, plates, our arms, our hands, our feet, legs, etc… When he first started, I laughed at the small insignificant things he was praying for, but now I almost cry because he reminds me to pray for those who do not have these simple not-so-insignificant things like hands, feet, legs and houses that I sometimes take for granted. In this way, my son has magnified my gratitude.
6. Examination of the Day
This is what the dialogue in the beginning of this post captures. It is my adaptation of Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, for Trystan. It has evolved as his awareness and sensitivity has grown. When we first started, I was doing all of the talking and it comprised of recollecting the day’s activities and bringing awareness to the things that I am proud of him for, the things he did that I did and didn’t like, and the words “I love you so much.” This combined with the formulated prayers that we say every night helps wind him down, and conk out much faster than he used to. Zoey is still too young, even for just the recollection of the days’ events, but I can’t wait until I can share this gift with her as well.
For reference, here is an outline of the daily examen for adults:
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
May whoever read this post grow in peace, wisdom and grace.