Bedtime. Just say the word to any parent and a look of panic will flash across their face, followed by a full body shudder. Not only is it the hardest thing about being a parent, it’s the part that you can never feel you have safely completed, AND it returns to haunt you. Every single night. Bedtime is a battle of the wits. And the child almost always wins.
Some parents will tell you that bedtime is easy at their house. They will say things like “Little Winifred is so tired by six thirty at night that she puts herself to bed and we don’t hear another peep out of her!” These parents are liars. They are lying because they believe that what happens in their house at bedtime couldn’t possibly happen in any other house. They are wrong. They are embarrassed, so they lie. That, or Little Winifred has something seriously wrong with her.
Professionals will tell you that you only need one thing for a smooth and pleasant bedtime. Routine. Doctors and child psychologists are convinced that if we simply combine all the right things in a predictable order parents and children alike will enjoy a sweet, efficient bedtime. So we try.
At our house, the bedtime routine starts about two hours before the child actually needs to be sleeping. We start by telling the child to brush their teeth and go potty. Ten seconds later the child returns and we tell them to ACTUALLY go brush their teeth and go potty. The child then goes into the bathroom and smears toothpaste all over the counter and plugs the toilet, flooding the bathroom. We may or may not clean up this mess, depending on how long the day has already been, and then ask the child if they are sure that they brushed their teeth. The child then offers to let us smell their breath. Just a hint for you new parents. If a child ever tells you to smell their breath or their hands, the answer is ALWAYS “NO!”. It is never a good smell. After the third try, we are pretty sure that the child has successfully brushed and pottied.
Next comes pajamas. We send the child to their room to put on their jammies. A half hour later the child returns from their room. Fully clothed. They may or may not be wearing the clothes they went in there with but they are most certainly NOT wearing pajamas. We send the child back into their room emphasizing the importance of returning in pajamas. Twenty minutes later the child returns. Again fully clothed. Possibly in a Halloween costume but again NOT in pajamas. I start to lose it a little. The child then insists that there are no clean jammies in their room. I then insist that they actually open their dresser drawer and look inside for pajamas. Fifteen minutes later the child returns in pajamas. If it is 90 degrees in our house the child will be wearing fleece footy pajamas. If it is thirty below outside the child will be wearing summer pajamas that are two sizes too small. I decide to celebrate the small victories and let them wear whatever it is.
Now it is time for the tuck in. I start by insisting that the child go potty one last time. “Make sure you are COMPLETELY empty. You are NOT coming back downstairs tonight.” Now comes the easy part. Stories, songs, hugs and kisses. No problem. It’s amazing how much faster I can read by this time at night. Then we turn off the light and creep downstairs. I don’t know why we creep. Somehow we then manage to be surprised every single night that the child is three steps behind us saying “I have to do potty.” “But I thought you were empty.” I say. “I thought you were completely empty.” The child simply counters with “I have to do potty.”
You see, here is where the child wins. S/he knows full well that I do NOT want to risk the joy of having to change their sheets and sanitize their bed at three o clock in the morning. I have to let them go to the bathroom. They go back upstairs only to return within five minutes with “I’m so dehydrated, I really need a drink of water.” I think about it. Withholding water is the kind of thing that gets you in trouble with Amnesty International. I am way too tired to deal with those people. I let the child get a SMALL drink that I pour myself.
Ten minutes later the child returns with whatever injury or malady is preventing them from sleeping tonight. “I can’t sleep because…” Tonight’s prize winning excuse was “…because the saliva in my mouth is bothering me.” I am now speaking through clenched teeth as I inform the child that the only reason they can’t sleep is because they haven’t actually GONE TO BED! This little outburst buys me twelve minutes before the child is downstairs informing me that all the water I forced them to drink has caused them to have to “do potty” again. “Just go.” I whisper in my scariest voice. The child is scared. I know this because this is the only time that the child doesn’t insist on three hugs and eight kisses before returning to bed. Now I think I’m safe. I think that I have successfully scared the child to sleep. I let my guard down. Never let your guard down.
Thirty minutes later the child comes back down the stairs. “I have to do…” I do not let them finish. I yell. I say “You cannot possibly have to go to the bathroom one more time. In the past two hours you have used the bathroom three more times than you do the the other twenty two hours of the day! The answer is no. No, you may not go pee.” “No,” the child says “the other kind of potty.” I now fall onto the couch, crying in defeat. The child quietly goes into the bathroom, emerging 45 minutes later to a mother rocking back and forth on the couch, in desperate need of some sort of medication.
This is the end. I don’t hear anything else. Finally, when I’m pretty sure it’s safe, I slip up the stairs and hear the blessed sound of the child softly snoring in their room. I peek in at their sleeping cherubic faces and have the epiphany that the fallen angels are probably every bit as beautiful as the heavenly ones. I then slip into bed, smile at The Pastor, and whisper “Success!”. I turn out the lights. Five minutes later… “Mommy?”
Thank you so much for reading my blog. I hope I have put a little smile on your face. If I have, please be sure to share me with others who may need a smile. 🙂