This post was created for the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub and first appeared here.

Sleep.  I’m guessing that if you’re a parent of young children you may scoff when you hear that word.  Perhaps you might say “Sleep, what’s that?!”  These little people that we are raising, while adorable and incredibly precious, seem to have a knack for completely throwing off our sleep patterns and “helping” us find new levels of exhaustion that we didn’t think were possible.  From newborns that need to nurse every couple of hours to potty-training toddlers still learning toilet location…the life of a parent is often lacking in the “quality sleep” department.  We know that sleep is important though and in order to get some ourselves we have to figure out a way to coax our little ones to fall and stay asleep.  What’s a parent to do?

One thing that has provided some success for my family is coming up with a routine and trying to stick to it as best as possible.  We tried early on to have pretty a consistent routine of calming down, reading a story, having a bottle or snack, and then cuddle time in the room before laying them down or leaving them in their bed to sleep.  While this was far from a perfect method, it helped set a consistent routine that made bedtime and getting ready to sleep a little easier.  It also gave our kids something to look forward to and has sparked some extremely funny and heartwarming moments.  My favorite of which was my son requesting a “jo jo” story every night.  That is “jo jo” as in the delicious fried potatoes you find at a pizza restaurant.  I have absolutely no idea what gave him the idea or how it caught on, but for a majority of the nights from my son’s second birthday onward my wife and I have had to create new stories with “jo jos” as characters every night.  

“Jo jo” stories may not work for everyone; even finding any consistency in the craziness of work schedules and day to day life is a challenge.  However, introducing some routines helped us with bedtime quite a bit and I highly recommend it to any parent I talk with.  Perhaps your routine can be reading your favorite book from your childhood with your kids, or having a family teeth brushing session in the bathroom.  Maybe it’s even singing their favorite song with them in a silly voice.  Whatever it is, you can bet that your children will latch onto something and find their own “jo jo” story that they remember long after they need you to put them to bed.  And best of all…perhaps you can all finally get some sleep!

This is fatherhood…