When I was pregnant with my oldest, I read "The Baby Whisperer" by Tracy Hogg. I liked her no-nonsense approach, step-by-step instruction, and the idea that parents also need a life. There was a proposition of bedtime ( and naptime) routine. I followed her on it, and, since my baby was old enough to be bathed, our nightly ritual became : bath, book, cuddle, nursing till drowsy and down you go! Since he was a textbook baby, he did exactly what all the books said he would: with an established routine, he had no problem going to sleep. When he got a bit older, I added a goodnight story between bath and nursing. Around a year, he lost interest in nursing, and went to sleep.
Every night, right before putting him in his crib, I gave him kisses and told him how I and My husband love him. Then I said: Have a good night, as I laid him down.
Since it worked so well for him, I established the same routine with his brother. By that point, I had two kids to tuck in, most nights on my own. The younger one was not the same type of baby; he had major gastric issues, had hard time settling down, spit up buckets, nursed for only five minutes at a time, would not fall asleep while nursing, would not take a pacifier, etc, etc. He would not sleep through the night till he was two, and not for the lack of trying on our part. However, even this tough baby would fall asleep with this established routine ( albeit not for too long).
When my daughter was born, we went to the same routine. She was an easy baby, nursed well, slept well. She loved her bath, her books, and her tucking in routine. By now, the list of people who loved the kids grew to include all the siblings. Once she was able to talk, she would ask for cuddles, which meant lying down with her for a minute.
I found this bedtime ritual quite important as kids got older. By now, everyone can fall asleep without all the steps, but, usually, just as I am tucking the kids in, the pressing hurts, questions, and the need for cuddles surfaces. The fears are expressed, the hugs are solicited and the reassurances are sought. Some of these would never come out in the broad daylight.
Oh, this bedtime routine takes time, especially when I factor in the bath and reading time. It could easily be an hour. An hour I can spend cleaning the house, talking on the phone, surfing the web, reading my own book. After all, the boys are big, they know what to do to get themselves into bed. But I also know how fleeting is all of this. It will pass in the blink of an eye, and soon, very soon, my tucking in services will not be solicited.
I see the signs of it. Some days the boys read their own good night stories sprawled out on the floor instead of trying to squeeze in around me. They bathe themselves. When they are tired, they might have said Shema on their own, before I came to their room. Lately, 8 yo found that he can do without the goodnight kisses.
While this might feel painful to me, in reality, it is developmentally appropriate separation, initiated by the child. They are letting me know when they need me for comfort and when they are ready for independence. It reminds me of the way all thee weaned themselves: one day, around the same time they learned how to walk, they simply skipped a nursing here and there, and then, just a few days later, acted like they had nothing to do with me at all. With some of them, I did not feel done, and it did feel like rejection, but seeing them quite happily occupying themselves demonstrated that they were ready to move on to big-kid things.
So, if your kids do not rebuff you yet, give them some cuddles and goodnight kisses tonight. This will only take a few minutes of your time, and you will reap the rich reward in closeness.