Does the perfect bedtime routine even exist?
As the years go by, I’m beginning to believe a perfect bedtime routine must be some magical creature like Loch Ness or Champ, something that we’ve heard about and only a few people have actually seen.
As I sit here and write, I have just kissed my child goodnight with the sweetest, most patient voice in the entire world. I kissed my child so perfectly that I left the room thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was a good parent. Then the minute the door clicked shut, the whining happened, the bargaining, the urgent need for more conversation. So, within five minutes I go from being a great, wonderful mother to being a monster losing my patience and breaking up every word out of my mouth with periods like this: Go. To. Bed. (pause for effect) Now!
Where did my sweet moment go?
When did my last heartfelt connection with my child end? This bedtime interaction is like some sort of deathbed conversation. What were the last words they heard me say before they went to bed? And whether it’s a dying loved one or simply your child going off to dreamland, those last words can haunt you. Or at least they do with me.
But I don’t want you thinking that every parenting moment leading up to bedtime was amazing, and there were parenting rainbows shooting out of my butt from the moment dinner ended until now. Nope. Not even close. The minute those plates are in the sink our bedtime routine starts and the decline of sanity begins.
The younger child starts pulling on the older one who starts pulling on her and they both end up smashing their heads into the side of the laundry room door. Crying and yelling ensues. Meanwhile, in some other house, there must be a parent doing their bedtime routine which includes bedtime yoga and breathing exercises with their child, there just has to be. There must be some kind of yin to this horrible yang. Back at our house, it’s, “Let the older one take an hour to put on his pajamas because everyone is telling us he needs to be more independent” time. So, this gives us time to hog tie the younger one, who is three and knows it, into some form of sleeper pajamas, all the while having to either chase her half-naked body down the hallway or yell from the bedroom. Watch for those words broken up by periods again: Get. Over. Here. (another pause for emphasis) Now! Then there is the countdown which works about fifty percent of the time, and the other fifty percent, my half-naked child is sitting in the time-out seat in our hallway. The older child has just barely taken off his shirt… that’s it… his shirt. But boy is he independent! I am starting to lose a little more of my cool, while waiting for this infinitely long moment to pass.
Time out ends in three minutes and we are now, according to all the books, supposed to discuss in a calm voice what we can do better next time and hug. This happens and then maybe, if there’s a God, my husband and I wrangle her into her sleeper.
Now brushing teeth.
God help us all. Let’s just say there’s a lot of this:
Close your teeth, nope that’s opening them. Nope, nope, it’s not funny. Nope. Close your teeth so we can get your gums. Close your teeth. Close. Your. Teeth.
Finally, the older one emerges, his pajama pants are on backwards, but who cares, they’re on his body, please rise for Handel’s Hallelujah chorus! His teeth brushing usually goes without incident. Older child, you give me hope. You give me so much hope for your sister.
Then something amazing happens. We read together and the kids actually sit. Sometimes, my husband reads and I do dinner dishes. Sometimes, we read together. But then we end with a verse of, “You are my sunshine.” I cling to this moment, this will be the final peaceful moment of our entire bedtime routine, if previous nights are any indication of what is in store for us.
You know where this is going to end up. Me shutting the door on my daughter after completely losing my patience with her, thus completely ruining the final loving words we exchanged.
Since both of these children were born, our bedtime routine has been a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that we have always tried to have a nighttime routine and the curse being… we have always had this nighttime routine. I have always longed for the moments before my children go to bed, the final moments I have with them each day, to be peaceful and relaxing.
Parents make plans and kids laugh.
You may call me crazy and not want to be my friend anymore, but I believe in Loch Ness and Champ, even though it may be completely foolhardy to keep heading down to the water with my binoculars, I’m going to try to keep looking for him.