The art of bedtime as told by a tired ass Mom.
Every night I enter the bewitching hour of 8 PM with a guilty excitement that the kids are going to bed – followed by dread of how the process will unfold. I have not always been the best at keeping routines or doing the same thing every day. Example – remembering to take a damn pill at the same time every day was too much to handle since I ended up with three surprise pregnancies. (that’s 25% planned/75% unplanned) I have always struggled with organization and routine. My right brain is too powerful and I live in a world of chaos and (gasp) sporadic bed times.
After Cece was born, bedtime became a series of hopes and guesses. I hope she goes to bed before midnight. I guess Jackson is tired. There was even a few weeks where the bedtime routine was: Get in car. Drive until kid falls asleep. I was getting desperate. After a long day at the office followed by toddlering all evening- I needed a few hours to do what moms across the globe do when their kids go to bed: wear fat pants; sit in my chair; drink wine and glue myself to social media then TV. I craved those times. I have mom friends who would tell tales of a mystical 8PM bedtime and my head would spin with delight of all the possibilities that an evening that began at 8PM would hold. I could watch TV. I could knit a blanket. I could blog again, or read again, I could finish the laundry..so many activities. Tell me more about this 8 PM bedtime, I ask. Tell me about this unicorn. Then there it was. That word again. Routine. (making Daniel Tiger face) routine. Yes, a routine: a timeline that would occur at the same exact time every night, routine.
So here goes. 8PM was unrealistic- we were trending around 11PM -so 9PM was the goal. When we crossed the Colorado boarder from Kansas, I expected the scenery to magically change into a mountainous paradise. It didn’t happen right away, but we drove on and finally scenery exploded with beauty. This was the same for bedtime. It didn’t happen the first or the second or the third night but dammit I was committed. I made up a song. Bath time. Brush Teeth. Bottle. Bed.
Judgment moment: My son is two and a half and still has a bottle at bed. Ok its out
there. I know it is bad, but getting my son off the bottle is on my long
list of things to do behind clean garage, pay off credit cards, removing
chipped toenail polish and oil change. I accept it as his security blanket and
know that one day that phase will be over.
The seven thirty alarm sounds off in my head. They are happily playing and I step outside for a mental pep rally. Breathe in and out. I am ready. Preparing for the after bath squirm fest, I set out pajamas and diapers. Cece likes to curl up like a potato bug at the site of a fresh diaper and Jackson runs around the house naked (or air-drying).
8PM. Bath. They love bath time. Jackson methodically runs his cars along the side of the tub and Cece licks the walls and eats the bubbles. Three nights in a row, bath time is interrupted by floating turds. “Cece poop!” Jackson yells and we immediately abort the bath. I try to remove kids and poop in a rush of towels and toilet paper. (note to self: buy fishnet) I dry and dress Cece first. She fights me then becomes fascinated by sticking her finger in her belly button so I am able to slip on her diaper and pajamas. “Jackson’s turn!” I say. “Brush teeth?” he reminds me. How dare we leave the bathroom before this step is done. He points to the Elmo toothpaste. I squeeze it on his toothbrush knowing he will never forget the time I accidentally used the Crest. “Mama brush teeth” he says. (My evening dental hygiene has vastly improved since we began this routine.) Once we are done, I wrangle him into his room and attempt to get his pajamas on. He does this rolling bended leg move that makes it impossible enough to get pants on that he is able to jump up and go running. This begins a chase followed by a tackle and lots of giggles.
I let them run off bath energy while I prepare the bottles and make a lame attempt at cleaning. I repeat the little chant so they know that we are still on a mission. Bath time, brush teeth, bottle, bed. Jackson laughs. “Bottle!” he repeats. We are back on track. He runs to the kitchen to watch me pour the milk into their bottles. I set the lid on the counter, playfully close to the edge. He grabs it. “Oh no!” yell, familiar with this daily banter. “give me that lid, Mister!” He takes a mad dash into the living room and throws it behind the reclining chairs. I know exactly where it is because he does this every night.
The three of us march into their bedroom for bottle/book time. I shut the door. Blackout curtains have helped create the illusion of nighttime when the sun is still setting. Jackson picks out the same four books every night. Three by his favorite author Sandra Boynton and Good Night Blue. They know each page by heart but are still excited. Three singing pigs say, LaLaLa. No!No! you say. that isn’t right. The pigs go OINK all day and all night. They crack up. As I finish a book, Jackson says “another one”. We are all out of books now so I quickly turn off the light. They fuss a but are comforted as I crawl in bed between the two of them.
Final step – Getting them to actually fall asleep. The three of us lay there-In total darkness and total silence. I have tried nightlights, star projectors and music machines and learned that sleep and distraction don’t mix. Jackson cuddles into my side and I stroke his hair. Cece is more like a fish, flailing on my other side. She starts to burrow, then sits “Hi!” She laughs. “Shhh,” I whisper, “bedtime” She flails away. I can feel Jackson’s breath getting deeper, he is starting to drift off. I cuddle him close and start kissing his head. His puts his leg on mine. I sigh. Still awake. Cece stands up. “No Cece.” I say. I gently place her back to the sleeping position while maintaining the hair stroke that I hope will coax Jackson to sleep. She plops her thumb into her mouth. I slow my breath to releive a bit of tension. I imagine I am just finishing a perfect yoga class and am laying in coupse pose; deep inhale deep exhale. Kids can sense tension and if I start to let my anxiety take over they will never fall asleep. They can sense my weakness. Jackson is lightly snoring next to me. I roll toward Cece, still holding on to him for comfort. She is quietly sucking her thumb. She doesn’t like too much cuddling when she is tired so I rub her back. The flailing has stopped and I can tell she has drifted off as well. Time to make the escape. I wiggle my arm from under Jackson and roll Cece away so I can get out of the bed. I have to maneuver over the safety rail and find my way through the darkness, to the door, praying for no stray blocks or trucks along the way. The floors squeak under me and look at them one more time as I open the door. One turn of the knob and I am out of their room. Freedom! The mystical unicorn does exist. I am enjoying it right now.