Some days, 6pm is my favourite time of the day. Ben has had his tea, I’ve cleared up and Tim is just home from work. We’re usually all pretty tired, irrespective of whether we’ve had a disturbed night. But by 6pm, I can start to relax.
6pm marks the start of Ben’s bedtime routine; the end is almost in sight. When you’re looking after a small baby all day, the days can seem very very long. (My parenting mantra is that ‘the days are long but the years are short.’) Once you hit 6pm, you know you can get through.
One of the rituals that we have developed is to watch 10 minutes of CeeBeebies at 6pm. This marks the start of The Bedtime Hour, a lovely collection of programmes which are more subdued than some of the live-action content of earlier in the day. This is usually the only television that Ben watches, and he usually gets distracted and starts wriggling away when it is on, so I’m not too worried that it’s frying his brain.
The Bedtime Hour starts with a song: Good bye sun, hello moon. I admit, I love this song, probably more than Ben. Sometimes, the programmers shorten it or even leave it out all together, which incenses me. I like to sing along and show off that I know all the words. This is what becoming a mum does to you.
After the presenter (probably the bit that Ben loves the most), the first programme is Abney and Teal. Most parents will recognise Peppa Pig and Mr. Tumble, but Abney and Teal are the most gentle, kindest of cartoon characters. Living on an island in an inner-city park, with magical creatures who dig holes and blow bubbles, Abney and Teal are the best of friends. Abney prefers knitting, dusting and making porridge (a man after my own heart), while Teal loves a good adventure, and Toby Dog accompanies them all with a folksy tune on the accordion.
Occasionally ‘real-life’ infiltrates their world – a washed-up ladies handbag reveals a mobile phone, which is called ‘the buzzing thing,’ which keeps them all awake at night; a rock concert inspires Abney’s poetry. But most of the time, they eat porridge, grow cabbages and create things out of cardboard boxes. A slightly nostalgic look at childhood, perhaps.
Once Abney and Teal has finished, bedtime is all go: bath, bottle, songs, bed. At some point, we’ll introduce a Bible story and prayers, but I’m not sure when yet. Usually, that goes fairly smoothly, and it is a rare night when Ben isn’t snoring by 7.00pm.
That moment, as I’m sure all parents know, is a moment to treasure.