Remember when you were a teenager and you could sleep for fourteen hours straight? You had a pile of laundry in your room resembling Mt. Kilimanjaro, there was a layer of dust thick enough to make you believe your window sills were actually painted a dark shade of grey and there were enough chachkas on your dresser (CD cases and pocket lint) to put Grandma to shame. Yet none of this was bothersome enough to disturb your beauty sleep. There were no physical constraints encroaching on your perfect slumber either. You didn’t have to worry about waking up because your back started to get sore from laying in bed too long. You would never catch yourself saying disturbing, yet inevitable things, like “My natural alarm clock gets me up at seven o’clock every morning.” And remember when your parents would come into your room, trying to not-so-subtly wake you up? They’d bypass straight-to-the-point questions like “When do you plan on getting up” and just go straight for a teachable moment with “Is this what you plan on doing with the rest of your life?”. I never answered this question, assuming it was rhetorical, but I’m pretty sure my silence was just putting fuel to the fire. I wish I knew then what I know now, because I could have built a very strong case for why I should have been rewarded, instead of scolded, for my record-breaking slumbers. Because putting toddlers down for bedtime is the ultimate battle of mental, emotional and physical strength.
I’d have to say that my husband and I are parenting more by trial-and-error than anything else. I was never too keen on stockpiling parenting advice books. My memory is not as sharp as it used to be and when I’m in the thick-of-it with toddler negotiations, the last thing I want to be shouting is “I think it was in Chapter 7!”. All of my kids have been pretty good baby sleepers. I know, I just lost 50% of my readers. If it makes you feel any better, I definitely just jinxed myself. Also, please note, this comment is non-inclusive of the time I was breastfeeding, in which I was more popular than Oprah. But something happened when my daughter was around two-and-a-half years old. It could have happened earlier, but I’ll have to chalk that one up to my memory issues. Bedtime. Became. A Battle. We try to gear her up ahead of time, telling her she can finish her cartoon and then it’s time for bed. She’s very agreeable until the television screen goes black. Queue fetal position, hiding behind small spaces, jumping on the trampoline and when all else fails, being insanely cute. On a good night she really does take interest in brushing her teeth. Other nights, she eats a bunch of toothpaste, sticks out her tongue and calls it good. We ask for goodnight kisses, which she knows is the final step to night-night time. She quickly tells us “No”, which we should find flattering because it really means she wants to hang out with us more, but well, it just stings. The process of getting her down for bed can take anywhere between thirty minutes to an hour and a half. It’s not active involvement for that whole time. We can go an hour thinking everyone is asleep, until what I like to call “creepy baby” shows up on the side of my bed, looking guilty (creepy) with a stock-pile of blankets tucked under her arm. Damn it!
I’m Googling the crap out of bedtime routines these days and we’re still going strong with good ol’ trial-and-error. Maybe part of the reason it’s such a frictional time of day is because we’re so close, as parents, to having some quiet time. Things always seem to be more dramatic when you can see light at the end of the tunnel, right? Or in the case of bedtime routine, adult content television shows, a mattress which will keep us comfy until our backs start to hurt (get your mind outta the gutter) and our natural alarm clock gets us up at seven in the morning. I mean, worst case, this will all be cleared up by the time they’re teenagers and we’ll look forward to fourteen hour sleep cycles. I’ll try my best to remind myself of the toddler struggles and appreciate the lengthy sleep spurts, at least some of the time.