Big Kids Need Tucking In, Too thumbnail

Big Kids Need Tucking In, Too

3 Things by Michelle Lehnardt, Scenes from the Wild

3 Things by Michelle Lehnardt, Scenes from the Wild


After the familiar routine of reading stories, singing our good night song and arranging pillows and blankets around my little daughter, I wander into my 11 and 14-year-old boys’ room.

Picking my way through the minefield of legos, wet towels and disassembled motors, I find safe haven on the lower bunk bed.

Gabe, 11, scrambles down from the top bunk for a long hug and a quick kiss before retreating back to his book, but Xander, 14, wants to talk. In the safety of bedtime, my usually quiet boy spills his worries over school and friends and soccer practice.

Hans, 16, huddled over late night homework at his desk, gets a half-hug and a quick kiss in his sandy blond curls. He doesn’t want to talk now, but Friday night, when he comes home from a date or basketball game with friends, he sits on the corner of our bed relating who is dating who, what they ate, where they went.

My now 19 and 21-year-old sons kept the same habit while living at home. And while sometimes they simply wanted to say goodnight and go to bed, other nights we sat up late discussing the girl they really like, kids selling pot at school and what he said when the football captain offered my boy his well-worn copy of Playboy.

I credit our bedtime routines for much of the honest and open communication at our house. We talk all the time, about everything, but our nightly connections send the message, “I might be exhausted, but you are always worth my time.”

A friend recently asked my husband and I, “What do you do when your kids talk back?”

We both looked at the friend blankly for a minute before my husband replied, “We listen.”


Make birthdays a big deal.

Like most parents, I scaled down my kids’ birthday parties as they got older. But last year, on a whim, I sewed banners, hung streamers, created games, decorated the table — all for a ‘You are my Sunshine’ birthday party for my quiet, unassuming second son, Stefan.


My efforts were richly repaid when his face lit up, “This is all for me?” We ate his favorite foods, played bingo based on ‘Stefan trivia’ and even smashed a pinata. After the party, he thanked me over and over (something my little kids often forget to do) and quietly asked, “Do you think we could do this for my birthday every year?”


Now, it should be noted, all my over the top decor was for our family party. When we invited his friends over a few days later, the celebrations were much more low-key.

When my fourth son turned fourteen this February, he didn’t want presents or a party with friends. So, I created a party around things he does like: dry ice, shooting balloons, Diet Coke/Mentos fountains, sparklers and dry ice bombs. Sometimes all the fuss hardly seems worth the effort, but everyone loves to feel loved.


Of course I have to share a party-related find. And since the first is illegal in many states I’m going to cheat and share two.

Sky lanterns. You admired these in Tangled, do you know how inexpensive they are on For $12.14 for ten lanterns shipped, you can create magic. It’s especially fun to write notes and wishes on the lanterns before sending them drifting into the night.

Here’s a video from when we used them to celebrate Stefan’s 19th birthday:

Another perfect surface for notes and drawings lies in humble butcher paper. Before every gathering at my sister’s house, she rolls butcher paper across her kitchen table and throws out handfuls of markers and crayons. We’ve adopted the practice and found butcher paper gets people talking. Doodling and penning silly messages creates an instant bond among strangers (and it’s good for making banners too).



Contributor: Michelle from Scenes from the Wild
Enjoy her family blog and photography blog.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Margaret Polino Nicholas March 15, 2013 at 8:49 am

    This is the firsttimereadingyourblog. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.. Especially about teenage boys? Have a great day.

  • Jessica Smock March 15, 2013 at 8:50 am

    My husband and I have a two year whose bedtime routine has become a nightmare of tantrums, crying, and attempts at climbing out of his crib. My husband asked me the other day,”When does it end? When does he just put himself to bed and we get our lives back?” I’m going to show him this article as proof that bedtime can be a special time again to look forward to and connect! Thank you for this! I needed it….

  • Bernadette Noll March 15, 2013 at 9:15 am

    This is super sweet! I especially love the reminder that all age kids need a little tucking in and that the secrets to connection might just lie in those few minutes right before sleep.

  • Amy March 15, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I’m so jealous of all your boys! I have two little girls and they’re wonderful, though. Your fourteen-year-old’s party sounds a bit like the parties I throw for both girls’ seventh birthdays ( — maybe they’re not so different after all. :)

  • tracy@sellabitmum March 15, 2013 at 10:10 am

    It’s totally normal that I’m actually crying seeing my dear friend Michelle here today, right? I love her. Everyone should love her. But sometimes I do hate sharing her. ;)

    Love your words. And your heart. Always. xoxo

  • Francine Ellis March 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Thank you Michelle! This is a wonderful reminder for those nights when I am too tired to do bedtime justice. I have also noticed that my daughter tends to open up and chatter more at bedtime than almost any other time. She never wants to answer my “how was your day?” when she walks in the door from school, but is so much more relaxed at bedtime.

  • Tara March 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    So inspirational! Every single part! Love your response to the question, “what do you do when your kids talk back?”!

  • Melissa March 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I want to be Michelle when I grow up.

  • BethanyC March 15, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Love it. We tuck in our 4 year old twins and 9 and 12 year olds. I love this time of day. Routines are priceless and this one for us, has been the same for 12 years.

  • Andrea B. March 15, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    It’s great to see an article acknowledging that the teens are really in need of attention and care.

  • Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli) April 1, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    This was fabulous! Loved the truth, the tip, the find, the video, everything. Shared it on my Two Cannoli Facebook page.
    Thanks, Michelle (and Lauren!)

  • Alison April 1, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Michelle, how did I miss this??
    Love all of this. All. Of. It.
    The note about birthdays? My boys have never had a birthday party (well, the baby isn’t even 1 yet). I’m thinking I need to throw a big 4th birthday party for my oldest!