The Surprising Thing That Made Bedtime Easier (& Helped My Kids Bond)

For the past two weeks, my kids have eagerly put on their pajamas, brushed their teeth, and climbed into bed. No, I didn’t birth aliens — they’re just excited to get into bed and listen to books on our new record player, a Christmas gift from my sister.

My husband dislikes throwing out things (which can make for a cramped closet), but I’m glad he hung onto his childhood record books. Maybe you’re old enough to remember those square picture books that came with black 45 vinyls. The scratchy records bring the stories to life with music, sound effects, and even different voices for each character, while you follow along in the books. A bell reminds you to turn the page, so you won’t miss a single thing.

Record books were magical for my husband as a child. His nostalgia is the one reason he’s never gotten rid of his eclectic collection of Gremlins movie reenactments, Batman comics, or the now classic Mouse Soup. I’m glad he’s kept the books with their worn covers, soft from so many readings. He has managed to keep the vinyls in almost perfect condition after more than 30 years.

When the small record player arrived, my daughter was giddy with excitement. We used to own a vintage Fisher Price record player but never replaced it after it broke. Her younger brother, on the other hand, had never seen a record player. He had no idea what to expect, but clapped with glee once it started to play.

My kids were born four years apart — my daughter is 9 and my son is 5. While I’m grateful that my daughter was fairly independent before her brother came on the scene, I worry about the age difference. I’m sure they bicker just like other siblings, but my daughter doesn’t always want to play with her brother because he’s so young. He adores her, of course. Those four years will feel like even more once my daughter becomes a teenager.

The past few nights, I’ve listened outside their shared bedroom as they chatter excitedly over which record book to pick for their bedtime story. They alternate turning the pages and flipping the record. They grill my husband about the backstory of the cute but potentially evil Gremlins or pester him with questions about Batman and Robin (circa 1970) after each reading.

After the black discs are tucked away and the record player is closed, my kids lay in bed and whisper about the stories to each other. My daughter even chooses to share her brother’s bed instead of escaping to her top bunk. The quiet whispers and bedtime snuggles make my heart fill with so much love and happiness.

They’re not the only ones who have benefited from those vintage books. My husband practically beams when they ask him to explain the stories of his favorite childhood superheroes. The same ones they’ve just learned about from his record books.

Who knew that one small box would create such joy and closeness between my little boy and little girl?

Photo: Getty