Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bedtime: A drama performed in three acts

Act 1: In which my son gets clean
Synopsis: At about 7:30 pm, we tell our son it is bath time and ask him to go upstairs for his bath. Repeatedly. Our son yells that he is not dirty or stinky and does not need a bath. Or, he says that he is busy playing/reading/doing any activity that is not bathing. When he fails to comply, we either lead him up the stairs or, if we are tired of arguing, carry him up. Once upstairs, his Daddy tickles him until he is in a good mood, and gets him into the tub. Our son happily scrubs himself clean and plays with his toys; he is a paradigm of cleanliness and good virtue. Until it is time for him to get out of the tub. Then he argues. My husband somehow gets him dried off, dressed in pajamas and teeth brushed.

Act 2: In which we have too many books
Synopsis: Upon exiting the bathroom, our son goes to his room, where there is soft music playing and his bed is turned down and waiting for him. He is told to select three books. He will want four or five books, but he is told that he is allowed to pick three. He tries to negotiate to four books but is presented with the counter offer of zero books. He settles for three. He then searches through the 157 books that are on his shelves and the mountainous stack of library books on top of his shelves (totally my fault), only to select the same three books that we have read every day for the past week. After his refusal to select different books, we read the three he has chosen. He asks to read another book and is told that he has had his three.

Act 3: In which my son attempts to break my heart
Synopsis: After turning out the light and saying good night, Mommy tries to leave and is subjected to some of the most heart-wrenching sentences ever uttered by a 3-year-old. They include the following:
  • When you leave me, my heart feels sad and lonely for you.
  • Please don't go. If you go, I will wander the dark house looking for you.
  • But what if I don't dream of you tonight and you aren't there when I need you?
  • But I just want you to stay here with me. That would make me feel safe and loved.
  • My heart hurts when you leave me at night. I will cry out for you.
  • You told me that you would always be with me, but you won't stay with me now.
  • When I was a baby you let me sleep on you all the time. Why can't we do that again?
  • When you go, I miss you like you miss Indigo.
What kind of guilt is this? Where does he get this stuff? The last comment is a reference to our long-gone cat, who I showed him a picture of once and told him that Indigo wasn't with us anymore and it made me sad sometimes. (ONCE!) 

We have tried switching parents in the above acts - Mommy on bath duty and Daddy reading and tucking in, and it works for a few nights. But then my son will come looking for his Mommy in the middle of the night and we switch back to the regular roles.

So, yes, bedtime routines are important - most parents know that. If not, here is a study linking the importance of bedtime routines to overall sleep wellness and maternal mood. (Did you catch that? Bedtime routines make MOMS happier, too!) The problem with bedtime routines is that they take a lot of practice. And patience. And a really, really thick skin.

What is the bedtime routine like at your house?

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