In the days without kids, I imagined how fun it would be to read my future children bedtime stories, tuck them in for the night, and see them doze off. I imagined all the good stories we would enjoy together, the perfect kiss good night, and how they would sleep soundly. I did not have a clue about what bedtime really looks like.
Instead, bedtime is chaos and exhaustion, exhaustion for me. First, I chase my 21 month old around the house to change his diaper and get his pajamas on him. Then, I drag him and his 3 year old sister into their room, and I let them pick out a book. Only my 21 month old doesn’t care so he throws the books around the room and makes a mess. My daughter picks the same book she picked last night, unless my 21 month old has thrown it somewhere and she cannot find it. Then we are lucky enough to have variety, otherwise it’s the same plotline, night after night. While I read the story, my son is in full stuntman training and is doing acrobatic moves off his bed. Halfway through the story, my daughter finds a new book she wants me to read instead, but I’m not willing to budge because I’ve already committed to Green Eggs & Ham, and we aren’t going to keep changing half way through every book.
When the story is over, I do my best to get the kids into their beds. Hugs. Kisses. But the little one is not staying put. He is everywhere, and no matter how sternly I say “get in bed”, I receive comebacks of laughter. “I’m not playing, get into bed.” My son laughs harder. I eventually give up and just walk out of the room yelling, “go to sleep”. Within 1 minute, my son is out in the living room, and my daughter is creeping behind him to see if she can get out of bed time too. “Go to bed!” Sometimes they run back to the room. Sometimes this gets a laughing response. Sometimes I have to grab his hand and walk him back to his room. This “go to bed” cycle happens for the next hour. I often need my husband to be the enforcer, but the cycle is delayed rather than discontinued. The pitter patters of feet get quieter as they are seeing bedtime as inevitable. The sneakiness gets sneakier. Eventually, the kiddos finally give up, they stay in their beds, and they go to sleep. Eventually.
This happens every night. Every single night. Some nights, the fight is too exhausting, and the kids just sleep in bed with us, because that’s what they really want. We wave our white flag and they jump in. This war is a tough one, and I don’t believe the Parents are winning or even have a chance. I tell myself that “it’s getting easier, it won’t always be like this.” But I think, when it’s not like “this” anymore, there will be a part of me that feels sad, a part of me that will miss “this”, miss their innocence and their longing to sleep with Mommy and Daddy. It sucks that my children won’t go to sleep as easily as I’d like, but I do love “this”, and I wouldn’t trade “this” for anything.