Why is bed time so hard? Is there a footnote I missed, a parenting “How to put your kid to bed properly” book I should have read? I mean, it shouldn’t be a difficult task. Yet, every night, right around the same time I’m met with the same fight. Someone isn’t tired. Someone else needs one more story. And another someone is starving (even though they’ve eaten a full meal, a snack the moment they entered the door from school, and a package of gummies and a glass of milk moments before).
The thing that gets me is that bedtime is not a surprise. This is not a new mix thrown into the already chaotic air. This is a stabilized, well thought out (according to me), established bedtime routine that has been continually in play for years. After the usual showers, pjs, and show, with a snack for the apparent starving children, child #3 walks up the stairs screaming about wanting one more show, while child 2 and child 1 stay tuned into the tv, happily changing the channel from Disney to Cartoon Network or some strange Pokémon show I’ll never understand.
Child 3 then cries about brushing his teeth-the same teeth we brush EVERY night. He then cries while going potty-the same potty I make him try for EVERY night. Then we crawl in his bed and read 2 books, not 3, not 4, two. After the books, which I’ve lovenly answered every long question to and stopped to look at ALL the pictures in, he cries for one more book-even though throughout his entire 3 year existence we’ve only read two. But I guess he’s holding onto hope. So after the crying, and begging, there’s the choke hold. Child 3 calls this a hug. I call it a life grip. His arms wrap around my neck and get tighter and tighter, while the “dont leave, sleep with me” pleading begins.
I’ve never been the parent to give in on this one. I want my own bed, and let’s be serious I want to put my feet up, watch adult tv, and enjoy a snack-that I probably wouldn’t let them have, in peace. So I wiggle out of the hold and begin the back and forth fight for the next 15 minutes. The fight goes as follows: child 3 escapes from bed and I take his hand and bring him back. I don’t talk, or make eye contact, or listen to his pleas. I simply redirect, redirect, redirect. By the time I’m done redirecting my gut is on fire and I’m mentally curing my husband for working late again.
Once child 3 is down, its time to rally up child 1 and 2. This comes with a sigh and the “but our shows not over” response. I nicely threaten death to every toy and enjoyment time that have/own if they don’t get upstairs “this insant.” This is then followed with stomping feet and heavy “but I don’t want to go to bed yet” sighs. Even though, wait for it people, they go to bed at the same time EVERY night. There’s no surprise!
1 and 2 brush their teeth. I check and make them brush again. Because surprise, they forgot that I’m going to check just as I do EVERY night. Then they climb into my bed, there’s the non-surprising fight over pillows, who laid on the hard/soft pillow last night, and the who got to choose the book last night. Some nights are calm, they melt into me, their heads resting on my shoulders and their bodies curled around my sides. I love those nights! But then there’s the giggle nights. A word happens to rhyme with butt, or poop, or fart, and its a laughing frenzy that only elevates until I put the book down and send everyone away. Of course thats followed with cries and fits over the lack of reading, but this is not about me.
The tears and fits go on until I get so frustrated that I yell and everyone goes to bed angry. It’s an awful feeling that only Bravo shows and Doritos slathered in onion dip can fix.
Deep down I beat myself up, like most moms, I think everyone else must have it right. I think all other moms have bedtime under control. No one else begins to sweat as they lead child 3 back to bed for the 5th time, because they’re thinking of the massive to-do list that still awaits them downstairs, the lunches that still need to be packed, the laundry that probably has an odor to it because they forgot to switch it into the dryer 8 hours ago, the nice clothes they don’t have for work in the am, and how all they really want to do is to sit down and dive into that new pint of ice cream they privately bought in the store that afternoon without a little person attached to them. Nope. Everyone else has a lovely bedtime routine, and loves any time where they can steal some extra cuddles. I have asked these people for advice. I’ve even YouTube old episodes of JoJo the Nanny. Yet, everyone comes up with the same answer: consistently.
Well then I have to wonder, if I am consistent and my kids still haven’t conformed maybe it’s because they need a surprise? Maybe I should start telling child 2 that its his job to put child 3 to bed, while child one preps my night time snack-without consuming a single bite? Maybe I should surprise them all by plopping myself on the couch and saying, “Surprise, you’re putting yourself to bed tonight,” and then eagerly switching off their show and putting on HGTV? Or maybe, “surprise I didn’t make your lunch last night because you were being a whiny hot mess?” I tried to pitch this idea to my agent, via form of a children’s style book where the mom quits her kids. It wasn’t welcomed with open arms. In fact, it was shot down with a quick, “there’s not a market for this type of book, nor do I think a publishing house would be keen on a book about a mom who isn’t there for her children.” See. Surprise-you’re idea has no following. That’s legit. An honest to goodness surprise. Putting on pj’s, listening to only 2 books, not giggling at the word “but,” and thoroughly brushing teeth the first time, is not. So until this gets easier, and I begin writing tearful blogs about children who no longer want me to read to them or tuck them in, I’m going to approach every evening task with the word “surprise” in front of it. Maybe that will get them going, and get me faster to my Mom-bie time.