I don’t know why we never tried a normal nightlight.
Maybe we did, and it wasn’t adequately addressing our boys’ collective fear of the dark combined with a tremendous reluctance to go to bed. But I noticed one Christmas how hypnotic we all found the scattered stars thrown from a mirrored-ball ornament. After Christmas I found an even larger disco-ball ornament on sale, hung it so it would spin in the center of the bedroom they shared, and gave them each a flashlight.
They were delighted, and we went through so many batteries I had to switch to rechargeable.
By then, the singing part had already become standard bedtime procedure.
The singing got started because each one in turn went through a phase of being scared of the dark. The Ice was terrified of owls, of all things, and began worrying about this at precisely bedtime each evening. The First seemed to fixate on hungry monsters. The Maker, wide-eyed, watched his two bigger brothers for cues as to how he should feel.
The hungry monsters were no match for my ingenuity. I can remember arming the boys with things to say to hungry monsters: “If you’re hungry, you can find something to eat in the kitchen. And food stays in the kitchen.” Also helpful: “It is bedtime, and you need to get home and get in your OWN bed. Right now!” They practiced speaking firmly to the interlopers, brooking no insolence. And I mimed spraying under their beds and in their closets my patented Monster-B-Gone.
The owl issue was tougher. It was not unusual to hear one in the places we lived. So I began singing Dona Nobis Pacem to the boys at bedtime, with my hand on each child’s chest in turn. It worked like a mantra at first; my quiet blessing over them. Soon, though, they sang it with me. Then we started getting four-part harmonies. It sounded pretty darn good. They loved it. The disco ball arrived. The crowd wanted more.
It’s hard to go from Dona Nobis straight into The Itsy Bitsy Spider, or, even better from my perspective, Metallica. At the time I was still leading churches, most of them traditional, and my boys were not only familiar with the United Methodist hymns, but had many of them by heart. So it just seemed natural to go from Dona Nobis into Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us, and besides, it made us all feel like a bigger, better Guardian had things well in hand.
A Mighty Fortress is Our God! Jesus don’t take no smack from no owl.