three finger salute

The Three Finger Salute

Each time my husband puts our 3-year-old to bed, I feel like giving him the three finger salute from “The Hunger Games.”  You know, the salute that is used by District 12 residents to show love, admiration or respect to each other. When I watch him head down the hallway to the bathroom to begin the bedtime teeth brushing routine with our 3-year-old, he deserves the three finger salute. I admire his perseverance, patience and love for his daughter, particularly in that moment.  Parents out there, you know what I am talking about.  You know how those minutes or hours before bedtime go with a 3-year-old.  The struggle is real.

On the way to the bathroom to begin brushing teeth, our 3-year-old attempts derailment at least three times.   She needs a sip of water, or she forgot Flounder somewhere (usually in the depths of the basement which require about 20 minutes of searching), or she’s hungry again.  No matter how many times we redirect the derailing attempts, they come up night after night, and each time with more brilliant creativity.  It has come to a point now that I anticipate her requests, hopefully devising a rebuttal that will suffice and ultimately get her cute little bottom down to the bathroom to brush her teeth!

Eventually, through the miraculous power of teeth brushing songs that we sing together, we get through the process. Teeth are brushed and it’s time to get in the bath!  Usually bath-time these days is pretty uneventful.  There was a time (from birth up through her 2nd birthday), where baths were torture for her.  She hated every part from getting in, to washing up, to getting out.  After over 2 years, we realized that the issue was the lack of a sticky bath mat.  She hated the texture of the bathtub.  Parenting fail #198298343298234.  We never considered a bath mat, until I found one for $2, never used, at a garage sale.  That purchase saved our lives.  Anyway, back to bath-time now.  It’s easy.  She mostly likes it, she plays for a little while, she tolerates the hair rinser cup (notice I said she tolerates it, but she doesn’t particularly enjoy it), and she lasts about 10 minutes in the bath.  It still isn’t her favorite, but we’ll take it.  It is a drastic improvement from screams of terror every bath night, for over 2 years.  What a trip that was!

If we’re lucky, we make it into her room and she starts getting ready to climb into bed.  The pajamas better be the right ones, or we’ll end up changing them 6 times before she decides which ones are the right ones.  Her fish will need fed (which requires finding the step stool, dragging it into the room herself and finding the fish food), her Flounder fish that she takes everywhere better be in her possession (if it is not, no bedtime will happen at all), and the tangles have to be out of her hair completely.  She does a little check with her fingers and if she finds a tangle, all the stops have to be pulled out – detangling spray, reassurance of the impending detangle that will happen, a wide toothed comb, and usually a stuffed animal has to help detangle her hair because they have the magic touch).  Once PJs are on, Flounder is found, fish are fed, hair is detangled, she finally climbs into bed.

“I have to go potty.”

Unzip the footie PJs, go potty, wash hands.  Oh wait, no PJs are wet from washing hands.  Change PJs.  Back into bed. .

“I am so thirsty.”

We have a water bottle that we keep on her nightstand because she has an immense need for water at all times, like her Momma.  Usually whatever water is in there “isn’t fresh enough” to her standards, so it has to be refilled.  Again, just like her Momma.  I get it.  Water needs to be accessible at all times and fresh.  Not too much to ask, is it?  I didn’t think so.

She chooses her 2-3 books and hops into bed.  Finally.  We are both snuggled into her little twin-bed, we have books, we have Flounder, and all is right in the world.  We read the books together (usually involving her “reading” to me and me reading to her) and I finally sense that her little mind is tiring and winding down.  It takes a lot to wind down that mind sometimes, as it does any 3-year-old who is curious and excited about their world.

Books are done and then it’s “lights out” and sound machine gets turned on.  She likes blowing out the light, or counting down the light, or talking to the light about turning off.  Every night is a new method, and she likes being in control of the light going out.  It works for her, because it ultimately puts her in charge of “bed time,” at least at the last moments.

Life finally slows down for a moment as we lay there in the dark, with a tiny glow of nightlight.  I see her angelic little face, usually turned in toward mine as she snuggles in for sleep.  We talk about the day, what we did, where we went, who we saw.  She tells me something that made her happy, something that made her feel thankful, and something that made her upset or sad.  We have done that for a long time, and she will never go to bed without talking about them with me.  My hope is that we continue that as long as she’ll allow, even into those teenage years.  We say a prayer and then we sing some kind of religious hymn or Christian children’s song, and we say goodnight to God.  My favorite is when she tells me “God is in my heart, even when I sleep.”

Her little hand touches my face, I touch hers.  We hold hands, sometimes she asks for “back itchies.”  These moments are precious, and it feels like time stands still for the first time during the entire day.  I sing her a few of her favorite lullabies, and I watch her eyelids get heavy, then close.  She’s calm.  Still.   Asleep.  So beautiful, so angelic.  Sweet little breaths of contentment, telling this Momma that she had a good day and is finally ready to turn in for sleep. For a few more moments, I just lay there and enjoy the quiet.  You don’t get much quiet time as a stay-at-home-mom.  These minutes are essential to our survival and sanity.  I listen to her breathe, I watch her eyes flutter as she drifts off into dreamland, and I feel her soft little hands in mine.  There is no earthly love greater than the love for your child.

So to all of you with 3-year-olds, I hold up the “Hunger Games” three finger salute to you.  I admire you, I respect you, and I love that we are all in this together.  The days are long, the bedtime routines can take an eternity, but the actual time is short.  I know that sometimes in the midst of schedule rigidity and task driven agendas, I have to just take a step back and remind myself to be truly present with my children.  Lay by them, read to them, sing with them, listen to their concerns and let them share their joys, and just be in awe of what beautiful gift I have been given to be a parent.   I give you the three finger salute, fellow parents of 3 year olds: Admiration, Love, & Respect always.


Brittin Schumaker is a mom, a blogger, and a small business owner. During the day she picks up toys and is a made-to-order chef for two amazing girls and a sweet baby boy. At night she sells LuLaRoe at, and she blogs at When she sees her husband, they either fall asleep or fall madly in love again.

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