Stalling Bedtime: the Excuses, the Tragedies, and the Theatrics


Here I am, at 8:15 pm, sitting in front of my computer, having just finished Act 1 of my kids’ bedtime. I say Act 1 because, undoubtedly, Act 2 will happen in oh, about two minutes. Act 2 is all about stalling bedtime.

Stalling bedtime starts with one of my children yelling ‘Mommy!’ and beginning to whine, or starting to cry. It then moves into the part where they give me at least one of a plethora of excuses from their repertoire regarding why they can not go to sleep and/or even stay in their beds at that moment in time. It never fails; my children have mastered the ‘art’ of stalling bedtime.

fleece toddler pajamas

Bedtime didn’t always used to be this way.

When my now 5 year-old was a young toddler (once his nursing days were over), he used to play in his crib after we put him down until he fell asleep. He didn’t bother my husband or me at all. As a matter of fact, he was a child who ASKED TO GO TO BED.

He would tell me it was time, even if I was willing to let him stay up a bit longer. When he switched to a ‘big boy bed,’ my son would wake up in the morning and wait for my husband or me to come get him. It was as if he didn’t realize he could get up himself. We milked that phase as long as we possibly could.

After talking with many other parents of kids my son’s age, I knew his behavior was not typical. I cherished this span of time knowing my son was a rare gem when it came to sleeping. I am so glad I did.

Now my son shares a room with his two year-old sister.

Room sharing has worked really well for them. I feel that it has strengthened my kids’ bond as siblings. For a time, I even was able to get some extra sleep in the mornings, as my son would occupy my daughter for lengthy periods of time. He would pass her baby toys through the crib slats, ‘read’ books to her and chatter incessantly.

My son made it to age 5 and suddenly the world became more dramatic. At about the same time, my daughter turned two. Her language skills exploded. She currently speaks in complete sentences and uses vocabulary I don’t expect from her.

Now she’s in a toddler bed and both my kids can get in and out of their beds as they please.

Suddenly, they have all these reasons why they cannot just chat for a few minutes and go to sleep. They can both clearly verbalize their extensive rationale for not sleeping and they both know how to push my buttons.

Some nights are worse than others. Sometimes I go up and down the stairs to their room to help solve their “bedtime tragedies” just once. Other nights, I am up there three or four times. There are times I go up twice and then go find my husband and tag him because I cannot possibly go up there again without losing my mind. 

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has kids who are professionals at stalling bedtime.

I love my children! I love being a stay at home mom. But after being ‘Mommy’ all day, it would be really nice just to sit for an uninterrupted half hour before accomplishing my own ‘before bedtime tasks.’ Unfortunately, in this season of my life, it doesn’t always happen until a while after my kids’ bedtime.

For now, I am choosing to try to find some humor in all of this. I have started making a list of the reasons, excuses and travesties my children have that cause them not to be able to stay in bed and/or go to sleep:

  • It’s too dark, I can’t see!

    Note that they have used this excuse both in the presence and absence of their nightlights. I just can’t help laughing every single time I hear this one.

  • Can you change the color of my nightlight?

    Speaking of nightlights, my children have those animal nightlights with the buttons that make them shine different colors. While I believe they are perfectly capable of changing the color by hitting buttons, my kids think it just works better when mom or dad do it.

    ladybug nightlight- the start of many excuses for stalling bedtime.

  • I can’t find my blanket.

    Seriously? I just put it on top of you before I left the room. Also, you (usually) have your light up animal nightlight with you in your bed. Hmm.

  • My sister can’t find her blanket.

    How nice of you to be so concerned.

  • I need to go potty.

    You just went ten minutes ago, but if you really need to, go ahead. By the way, you are fully capable of going by yourself without me knowing. I’m not sure why I need to be involved. Also, why does this mean little sister gets out of bed and exits the room as well unless your dad or I are there requiring her to stay in bed?

  • I need to get covered up/the covers are not on my feet.

    (Side note: on average, I tuck both my kids in THREE times each before I leave the room. Mostly because they hop in and out of bed to get books and stuffed animals they decide they must have in their beds. You know, so they can sleep). If they aren’t covered up, they obviously have moved in the last few minutes since being tucked in. Maybe I did miss someone’s feet. I am only human after all. But I think they are both totally capable of fixing this issue on their own.

  • I need ____ (stuffed animal) and it’s downstairs.

    Oh, and you didn’t notice it wasn’t in your bed when I tucked you in (for the third time)?

  • I need a drink of water.

    I guess you finished what was in your cup on the side of the bed? If so, I suppose I’ll fill it for you.

  • I need more water.

    And I need a glass of wine. And maybe some chocolate.

  • The humidifier needs to be filled/isn’t on.

    This one is usually my fault, I should know better to check before I leave the room.

  • The door is closed.

    Don’t I always close the door for the night?

A recent addition, because I think they are catching on that I am not buying the usual excuses:

  • There’s chapstick on my finger!

    I have no words.

And lately, their favorite:

  • I need a hug.

    This one always gets me. I always give them each about three to five hugs before I leave the room. But… they want to hug me…  This won’t last many more years. I admit, usually I fall for this.

Although I suppose I also cannot forget:

  • I need Daddy to give me a hug.

    They know this always works if Daddy is home. Not just because they are small and want hugs now and may not ask as many when they get older. My husband is a busy guy, working more than one job and taking classes towards his Master’s degree. There are a lot more ‘hug’ opportunities for me, as I solo parent quite a bit these days. He never deprives our kids of hugs, even if we’ve both been up there dealing with other excuses four or five times already.

I’d be kidding myself if I said I never used a few of these excuses for stalling bedtime on my parents when I was little. I know this is just payback.

Someday, I will share this list with them and we’ll have a good laugh, I hope. Maybe their kids will give them the same excuses and I can remind them that they did this once too.

I’d love to know though, what are other excuses your children make when they are stalling bedtime?


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