As any parent knows, putting your kids to bed offers both an opportunity and challenge. For me, the opportunity comes in the form of that free time, however short it may be, for my wife and I to hang out by ourselves after the kids turn in. And since we are boring, 40-plus-year-old parents of two pre-school aged girls, that free time usually involves trying to watch some amount of non-Disney, non-kid-related TV before one of us passes out on the sofa.
And since I can’t make it more than 20 minutes into any show before nodding off like a junkie who just shot up, my wife usually spends most of that TV time smacking me on the side to wake up and then filling me in on the chunk of the program that I just missed.
But in order to get to that post-getting-the-kids-to bed bliss, you have to go through the Bedtime Routine. We all do this every night. Sometimes it’s easy: You brush the kids’ teeth, get them in their pajamas, read a couple of stories, tuck everyone in, give the last hugs and kisses of the night and turn out the light. Everyone goes to bed happy and calm and slumber quickly takes over.
However, there are those nights like last night in my house which made me long for something much more peaceful and relaxing. Something like a visit to one of Cambodia’s Killing Fields, ca. 1976.
The culprit was my three-year-old daughter, whom I call Little Sis. I am going to state up front and right now that I am about to through her under the bus here. I would say throw her under her bed, but that would be too easy for her to escape from.
Little Sis and her five-year-old sibling, Maddo share a room. Each night, each girl gets to pick a story they want me to read. Last night, we ran late with dinner and all the usual evening insanity, so I was really in the mood to whip through our two stories and get the girls to sleep. Little Sis had other plans.
Lately, the kid has been, in the words of my North Carolina-bred mom, “showing herself”, with her bedtime antics. These have included, but are not limited to waiting until I tuck her in and kiss her goodnight before she:
–Says she needs to go “potty”. Keep in mind that she always goes right before getting into bed. And half the time, after I prop her up on the toilet, she says, “I don’t have to go”, which causes me to grimace and grind a few millimeters off my molars.
–Needs a drink of water. Which then leads to her saying she has to go potty.
–Says she is “scared”. Of, what, I have no idea. She’s been sleeping in the same room with her sister, and with a light on, for three years. Then again, I’ve seen her sister in action and the thought of being with her in a closed room at night fills me with a special kind of fear.
–Wants another story.
We had a Grand Slam of all four of these last night and it was just awesome in its level of volume, tears and unfulfilled dreams of an easy night. And that doesn’t include how Little Sis reacted.
First, she had to go potty. Then she wanted another story. I tried to say no, and explained to her that it was already way past bedtime and she needed to go to sleep. I motioned to Maddo, who was tucked in, and told Little Sis that her sister was ready for bed. None of this mattered. I might as well have been trying to use logic to tell that damn squirrel who keeps getting into my squirrel-proof bird feeder to leave all my birdseed alone.
After about five minutes of Little Sis crying out “NO!” every time I told her to go to bed, I decided to bring out the big guns…And few guns are bigger than telling a three-year-old that you are going to talk to the Easter Bunny.
“OK, Little Sis…The Easter Bunny wants you to go to bed! If you don’t get in bed, now, I might have to talk to him!” I said.
Maddo, who is way too smart for her age and never misses a chance to rile up her sister, threw some gas on the fire.
“…And maybe talk to Santa Claus, too!”
I nearly threw my neck out as I turned to Maddo. “Thank you, honey. That’s enough.” I turned back to Little Sis when Maddo tapped me on the shoulder:
“Maybe say she won’t get a birthday party!” I think the kid went to the Rahm Emmanuel school of negotiation.
This met with just what you would expect.
“NO, DADDY! DON’TTALKTOTHEEASTERBUNNY! DON’TCALLSANTA! IWANNABIRTHDAYPARTY!” is how she replied, by now with tears pouring down her face to go along with her eardrum-shattering cries.
“Well, are you going to bed?” I asked.
I then tried to amp things up a bit. I picked up the phone.
“OK, I’m calling the Easter Bunny!” I said as I pretended to hit a bunch of numbers on the keypad.
“NO, DADDY! DON’TCALLTHEEASTERBUNNY!”
“Hello, Easter Bunny?” I said into the phone and in front of my now near-hysterical daughter. “Yes, she won’t go to bed. Oh, you want me to tell her you said that? OK, I will! Now, honey, the Easter Bunny says he wants you to go to bed and he will come visit on Sunday!”
“DADDY!!! WAAAAHHHNOOOOWAAAAHHH!!! DAAAAAAADYYYYYY!”
I picked her up, wiped her face off, and tried to reason with her one last time. And then I gave up and decided to cut my losses and read her another story.
I can’t remember what it was, but when I was done, the little girl, of course wanted another one. By this time, we had been at it for almost an hour. I played the only card I had left.
I went to my wife.
Now, by this time, my wife had already crawled into the guest room bed. At times I snore like a chainsaw and I have this contraption that I strap on my nose at night which is supposed to help me re-learn how to not breathe through my mouth at night and, hopefully, cure this sleep apnea that I have. As such, my wife, who will be the first, second and third person to tell you she is no good on a bad night’s sleep, sometimes takes up space in the guest room where my nocturnal noises can’t reach.
I marched right into the room and laid it out for her in the simplest terms possible:
“You’re younger daughter is losing her shit.”
“Bring her up here,” my wife replied, as she began carving a place out in the bed for Little Sis.
I told the little girl to go up and see mommy. She dropped the book she had been holding and trudged upstairs without another look at me.
I didn’t hear another cry the rest of the night. Leave it to mommy to do what neither I, nor a request from the Easter Bunny can.