The clocks will go forward soon, giving us longer, lighter evenings, and we'll be facing every parent's favourite challenge: how to make the summer bedroom as dark as possible. But for now, Bella and Angus go to bed when it's dark outside. I find photographing anything in electric light very difficult indeed and so, over the last couple of weeks, I have been taking the camera up with me when they go to bed, trying to capture some of the warmth and cosiness of their bedtime routine.
They usually go up at around 6.30 pm, apart from the odd night when there is an after school activity which runs later, or at the weekends. After the rituals of bath, pyjamas, teeth and stories, they are allowed "a play" before they settle down to sleep. This is undoubtedly their favourite part of bedtime. Knowing they don't have that long, they get stuck in to some serious play; toys come out, dens are built, stories written and pictures drawn. I was wary of all this at first, thinking that after all that calming ready-for-bed activity the last thing they needed was stimulation. But it works. And at about 7.30, one of them usually will come downstairs and say "Can we go to bed now please?" and then they are tucked in, kissed and lights are switched off.
These bedtimes are precious. Already, at age seven, Bella will often choose to read her own story, rather than have us read to her, and I can feel her pulling away from me in lots of small ways. Doing her own hair, wanting to make her own breakfast or packed lunch, not needing help when she needed it before. And soon 7.30 will be too early for her and she'll want to go to sleep later. It's right that she is gaining independence, of course, but I just want to hang on to our bedtime rituals a little longer.