This post is sponsored by the American Dental Association as part of National Children’s Dental Health Month. With a dentist dad, I’ve had a lifetime of dental instruction and you better believe that when my dad comes to visit, I make him brush all my children’s teeth
Isn’t that dinner-to-lights-out time one of the craziest times of day? (I accidentally just typed “easiest” instead of “craziest.” It’s definitely not the easiest.)
I love a good routine, because I don’t want to have to think about all the steps every night, and it hasn’t changed much over the past seven years, even with the addition of new children.
About two years ago, though, we did push our goal time of everyone being in bed to 7:30 instead of 7:00 because we just could not get dinner on the table, eat, dishes done, and everybody ready for bed by 7:00 and the rush was just making every night so unpleasant for me (and I’m sure the girls too).
That extra thirty minutes has made all the difference, plus I’ve learned to be a little less rigid about that 7:30 and not to be overly bothered if it ends up being 7:45 instead.
Here’s what our evening generally looks like:
I start thinking about dinner around 5 p.m. I’m not in full dinner mode yet, but I might pop some chicken in the oven or do a few basic things. It’s also usually the time I have the girls clean up a little or start to warn friends that it’s time to head home.
By 5:30, I really try to have dinner underway. I’m fully in kitchen mode, banging pots and pans around, whipping things in and out of the oven and trying to keep the dishes from getting out of control. The girls usually do a pretty good job of playing with toys or reading books together while I prep and as we get close, I have them set the table.
Bart’s usually home from work about 6 p.m. and he helps keep the children happy or fills up the cups with water as we get ready to sit down.
Somewhere between 6:00 and 6:15, we start eating. The girls ALWAYS want to play games during dinner, so we play some improv games like “185” or tell riddles and jokes or ask trivia questions. Sometimes we go around and talk about our favorite parts of the day or I ask everyone to answer the same question like what their favorite gift they got for Christmas was.
Once dinner is done, everyone clears their plates, I put the food away, Bart does the dishes, and the girls pack their lunches for the next day.
By this time (around 6:45), Tally has usually hit her limit, so while the girls take their vitamins and Bart finishes the dishes, I put her to bed.
When I get back, I help Bart finish cleaning up the kitchen or the girls put away their toys and books and then we send them all to get on their pajamas (it’s only been in the last few weeks that even Star can get herself dressed for bed, which feels like a massive parenting milestone).
The two big girls brush their own teeth and have one of us check after they’re finished, while I usually brush Star’s teeth.
With a dad for a dentist, I’ve always been hyper-aware of the importance of tooth brushing and now I feel a great responsibility to keep my girls’ teeth healthy so I don’t let him down (and, you know, so that they have healthy teeth).
In fact, one of the first things I remember him telling me after Ella was born was not to let her take a bottle to bed. I’ve done a lot of things wrong as a parent, but I don’t think any of my children have ever once gone to bed with a bottle.
Baby teeth are just as important to care for as adult teeth right from the get-go, since babies are born with teeth under their gums, and early childhood is the time to start healthy habits that last a lifetime.
I started taking the girls to the dentist for regular check-ups last year (to my surprise, they LOVE going and ask every time we pass the dental office “How long until our next check-up?”) and happily, none of them have had any cavities and I feel highly motivated to keep that going.
I took a glance at these ten quick tips about protecting your child’s teeth from birth through childhood from the American Dental Association (an organization I’ve known about for as long as I’ve known my own name, thanks to my dad) and it was super helpful – from when to schedule your child’s first cleaning to how much toothpaste to use.
And Bart is a religious teeth brusher (he was the first person I’d ever met who kept a toothbrush and toothpaste in his backpack and brushed his teeth at least once a day on campus), so we’re both on duty to make sure everyone keeps their teeth clean.
Plus, who wants a child with stinky breath?
Once everyone is ready for bed, we have family scripture reading and a prayer and it’s between 7:00 and 7:15.
After that, I either put Star to bed if she’s falling apart (I tuck her in and read her one book) and then read to the big girls, or if Star seems pretty happy, she comes downstairs and reads with us too. Bart often joins us, but not always.
I usually read to them for between 10-20 minutes, depending on how late it is and how long the chapters are, then tuck everyone in and turn down the lights.
Sometimes the big girls play together for a while or read in their beds and, more often than I’d like, they come back upstairs for “one more” hug and kiss or desperately need a drink of water.
A couple of hours later, just before Bart and I go to bed, we turn off their lamps, pull their blankets over them and close the doors.
And marvel how sweet a sleeping child is. There’s just nothing better, is there?
Photos by Christie Knight Photography
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the American Dental Association.