Aaah, bedtime. That sweet interlude between a busy day and a restful slumber. Some might even call it–magical. That special quiet time when you can snuggle with your little cherubs and then send them off peacefully to Neverland…
Yeah, right. As I so eloquently expressed it to Husband a few nights ago, “I f-ing hate bedtime.”
For some parents, bedtime signals the beginning of some alone time for mom and dad, a time when they can fire up the TiVo or throw in some laundry or read a book or work on their blog... For me, however, it signals the beginning of a nightly battle, where I will eventually fall asleep in me bed (I just typed “me bed”–who am I, Popeye??) still wearing my clothes from the day, covered up by a small corner of sheet and using my arm as a pillow due to the fact that at least one of my kids is beside me hogging the covers and using my pillow. (This morning I woke up at 5:00 to my dog barking, Boy #2 and Boy#3 laying practically on top of me, and Husband sleeping on the couch…)
If you can’t tell, I’m becoming extremely bitter about bedtime. I keep thinking about the fact that my sister’s oldest, who is the same age as my oldest, just announces every night, “I’m going to bed. Good night!” And that’s it! Grrr…
So, what do the experts have to say? What am I doing wrong to turn this into such a battle? Let’s consult the AP article, “Bed Time Routines for Children” (which happens to have the clever subtitle: “How to Create Bed Time Routines for Children”).
“If you are a parent, you may have a nightmare on your hands each night when you are trying to put your child to bed. This is because a lot of children simply do not want to quit playing and go to bed. [OK, wait, gotta write this down. Kids don’t want to go to bed. Okay, so far so good…]A lot of parents actually say that it takes well over an hour to get their child into bed and then the child simply pops right back out of bed.” [Yes, yes, last night it was about 2 hours. But I’m not sure my kids “pop” right back out of bed. It’s more like a whiny slither…]
“When you develop a routine for your child you can eliminate a lot of the bedtime struggles that you normally face. This is because these routines give the child a chance to wind down while having some say as to how this routine will be carried out.” [Okay, well, we do have a bedtime routine. I’ve never just said “Go to bed!” and expected it to happen. Let’s see what else you’ve got to say…]
“Your child’s bedtime routine should begin with a ten-minute warning in which they are told that in ten minutes they are to get on their pajamas. [Two out of my three boys prefer to sleep in their underwear.] At the end of the ten minutes, let your child know that it is time to go put on their pajamas. If you find that this doesn’t work, you can always insert another reminder at the five-minute point.” [Well, my kids know that bedtime is 8:00, and I do give a warning, which is usually followed by protests and pleading, but I stick to my guns…]
“Once your child has their pajamas on, they should then be instructed to brush their teeth.” [Yeah, I’ve got really good intentions on this one…but am I the only one who wakes up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night in the realization that my kids haven’t brushed their teeth in a week? Yes? I’m the only one? That’s disgusting? I was just kidding…I meant to say that my kids LOVE to brush their teeth. They actually beg me to let them brush after every meal. And floss too! The dentist actually told me to lay off the brushing for a while because they were wearing the enamel off their teeth…] “After your child has brushed his/her teeth then your child can pick out a book. It depends upon the child as to whether you want to let your child look through the entire bookcase [In the case of Boy #3, this involves actually REMOVING every book from the bookcase as well.] or if you want to offer your child only three choices. The child can then decide to sit on the floor or bed, or lay down on the bed to have the book read to them. You should have already decided how long you would read to your child. If you read for thirty minutes then do a count down and announce when there is only ten minutes, then only five minutes left.” [In our house, the reading routine usually begins with everyone fighting as to who I’m going to read to first, resulting in someone screaming, “It’s not fair!” and “You ALWAYS read to him first!” and “You hate me!” Then they fight about who gets to be in the room to listen while I read. Right now Boy #2 and Boy #3 both lay in #2’s bed with me squished in the middle and #2 managing every night to somehow elbow me in the chest. (Don’t get me wrong–I love reading to them. We’ve done this every since they were babies. It’s just the insanity leading up to and following this that I could do without.) When I read to Boy #1, I lay on the floor (usually cushioned by a pile of clothes that he refuses to put away) and increase my volume as I try to read over the interruptions (“#3!! Get out of my room!!! Mom–make him get out of my room!! GO TO BED!! Mom–make him get in his bed!!!”). Maybe this explains why I wake up with a sore throat nearly every morning…
“Once you have finished reading a book to your child, tuck your child into their bed and turn off the lights. It is time for your child to go to sleep.” [Sounds easy enough. Except my kids are never satisfied with the amount of reading I do, either. “Don’t stop there!! No, read more, pleeeeaaaase! Please, Mom, please!! Just two more pages! You never read enough!! It’s not fair!!” Aaah, the rewards of motherhood never end…]
“If you have a child that will not stay in their bed then tell your child that you will be back in five minutes. After five minutes, go back to your child’s room and tell your child that you will be back in ten minutes. After ten minutes, go back. This will help your child develop the trust that you will return.” [Hmmm…okay, but what if your kid DOESN’T stay in bed for the five minutes or ten minutes?]
“While you are establishing this bedtime routine, you need to stick with the times that you state. This is what truly helps develop the routine for your child. This also helps your child know what to expect each night. Of course, this is going to take a lot of patience. However, after a few weeks [Weeks?! Try 10 years!] your child will begin to trust the pattern and stop fighting with you at bedtime. This is because the child is involved in making the choices that are a necessary part of this pattern. Soon enough your bedtime struggles will be completely eliminated.” [My kids do get choices. “#3, you can either get back in that bed or get spanked. Your choice.”]
This is what ensues after I tuck in each boy and give him a kiss (crossing my fingers every night that they will just FALL ASLEEP FAST!
#2: Mom, I need a drink of water!
Me: Okay, just a sec. (I bring #2 a glass of water.) Good night!
#3: Mom, I need a drink of water!
Me: Okay, just a sec. (I bring a glass of water.) Good night!
#1: Mom, will you shut my closet door?
Me: Yes, just a sec. (I shut the closet door.)
#2: Mom, #3 is in my room.
Me: #3, get back in your bed right now.
#3: Is it a school night? (Because he can sometimes lay with #2 if it’s not a school night.)
Me: Yes, it’s a school night. Go back to bed.
#2: Mom, did you know that when you take a drink of water, beer, pop–anything–you stop breathing?
Me: No, I didn’t know that. (I’m still wondering how “beer” got thrown into there.) Did you learn that at school?
Me: Did you figure it out on your own?
Me: Well, I’ve never really thought about it, but you might be right. Maybe we can try to find that out tomorrow. Good night.
#2: Good night.
#3: Mom, I need Blankie!
Me: Where is it?
Me: *sigh* Okay, just a sec. (Tromp downstairs. Tromp back up.) Here you go.
#3: And I need Leonard (his lizard).
Me: (finding Leonard on the floor) Here you go. *kiss* GOOD NIGHT!
(I get 5 minutes to myself downstairs before hearing foosteps.)
Me: #3? Is that you?
#3: I want to sleep with you!
Me: No, you need to sleep in your own bed!
#3: But I’m scared! Pwease, Mommy!
And this is how it goes until I either give in and let him lay in our bed or I lay down on his floor (cushioned by all of the clothes he’s thrown out of his dresser in an attempt to find “the perfect outfit.”) until he falls asleep and I fall asleep too, waking at 2:00 a.m. with a backache and the imprint of the snap from a pair of jeans in my cheek.
And then I wonder why I can’t ever seem to get anything done, don’t want to wake up early to exercise, and can’t kick the caffeine habit.
And we won’t EVEN go into how the DOG fits into all this...Bark! Bark! Bark!
Well, time to jump in the shower so I can face my SECOND-favorite routine: the morning routine! But that’s for another blog…