The kids’ bedtime used to be my favourite time of day.
Forgive me if I have uttered this thought before. It’s something I think about pretty much every night, so it is constantly with me.
When the kids were really small, bedtime was lovely on two levels. First, and most importantly, it was quiet, cosy, snuggle time involving warm baths and stories and lullabies and nightlights and just...softness and sweetness. (Awww....)
Secondly, and most importantly (wait – did I say that already?) it marked the end of a busy day of kid stuff and the beginning of quiet grown-up time, whereupon I could do myriad chores or crash in front of the TV and watch a cop drama. Whatevs.
I have always thought there were good things and bad things about every phase of child rearing. Newborns are portable and sleep in most places and people like to play “pass the baby” when you visit so you can share your little bundle. On the other hand, babies poop and cry a lot.
When they get older they become more independent and you revel in their continuing innocence and enthusiasm for everything. On the other hand, there are the tantrums. (Aside: do the tantrums ever stop for girls? Oh, never mind. Don’t answer that.)
During these phases of growing independence, the bedtime ritual changes, too. Diapers disappear. Baths require less hovering. People are anxious to brush their own teeth. It’s kind of nice. On the other hand, there’s the stalling.
I bet we all remember stalling. I know I have written here about the weird obsessive-compulsive routine I had as a child. Every night I would concoct a question and wander downstairs to pitch it to my parents. Some of the questions were really dumb. I’m sure they wanted to say, “Oh, Steph. You can do better than that.” There was also some nightly goofing around in the bathroom, some playing with toys and some peering out of windows. It all had to be done.
That’s why I can only shake my head knowingly when I see some of these things popping up with my own children. For example, for a long time, Boychild asked for a second tuck-in every night. “Fluff the sheets and be of good behaviour,” Groom-boy and I called it because it reminded us of the phrase “Keep the peace and be of good behaviour” from our old court reporting days.
Then there’s Girlchild with her nightly, “I need to get something downstairs” and “I need to go to the bathroom again” and “Lemme just tell you this one thing.” And persistence. Man oh man. It goes on. And on. And on.
That’s why I split a gut when someone sent me a link to a new book by Adam Mansbach. It’s a book for grown-ups made to look like a children’s illustrated book (Danger! Place on very high bookshelf!). It has bad words in it and it’s all about kids going to sleep – or not going.
At our house most of the swearing would be in our heads, but we live the sentiments over and over – WHY won’t the children just go to sleep? Why? They are small and young – they need lots of sleep – so sleeeeeep!
I guess, however, I have to remove myself from my current reality of not understanding why people wouldn’t want to get a good sleep when they have the chance, and remember how exciting it was when I was a child to try to stay up later and later.
That’s why I’m so very torn. My five-year-old daughter likes to sleep with the door open, but that means I can see her and hear her as she putters around instead of, you know, sleeping. I want to tell her: “You know, if you were to keep that door closed, Mommy wouldn’t know what you are doing and, thus, you wouldn’t drive Mommy bananas with your goofing around at bedtime.”
I know. Not a win. And, like the swear words in Mansbach’s book, I’ll probably just keep that little thought in my head while I think whistfully of the lovely bedtime days of old.
Published in The Perth Courier, May 26/11