Working on My Bedtime Manner

Everyone has a parenting kryptonite — that one area that, despite their best intentions and earnest attempts at improvement, remains their one true parenting weakness.

Mine is bedtime.

Since Rob works late nights, bedtime responsibilities generally fall under my command, which is unfortunate for everybody involved.  I can make it through entire days of whining, crying, screaming, tantrums, teething, explosive diarrhea, vomiting, Nick Jr., spills, messes, and all-out thermonuclear war.  But once I say those magic words — “It’s bedime, girls!” — that’s when it happens.  You know that part in Thriller where the girl’s all like, “Michael?” and when the camera zooms in on him, he turns around and OH SHIT he’s not cool First-Date Michael Jackson anymore; now he’s Zombie Michael Jackson, and then you start crying and wonder why you thought you wouldn’t get scared of Zombie Michael Jackson this time when you get scared of him every single time?

Tip: Doing the dance moves from Thriller really gets your kids moving.

That’s basically how bedtime starts in our house.  Like the middle of the Thriller video.

I think the reason why I am so short-tempered with them at bedtime is my constant underlying feeling that  I have no idea what I’m doing.  I’ll think I have things figured out, have a good routine in place, cracked the Da Vinci fucking Code of bedtime, and then shit just blows up in my face.  Before I know it, it’s well past midnight, Bella is still jumping on the bed, Phaedra is staring at me with no sleep in sight, and Surrey, who, bless her heart, gives us her final “peace out!” way before her crazy sisters even think about heading upstairs to bed, has woken up from all the commotion.

Sometime between the second and third reading of the crappy children’s book version of the latest Tinker Bell movie, my brain starts whispering crazy thoughts:

You know this could go on forever, right? 

For real?  I don’t want it to go on forever.  I kind of want it to end in the next ten minutes.

I know.  You have lots of things to get done, like checking your email and watching TV.

Exactly.  What should I do?  These kids are really busting my balls right now.

Try yelling at them to LAY DOWN AND GO TO SLEEP!  That will help them calm down and get sleepy.

Hey, that’s a great idea!  Quick question, though — since I’ve been ignoring Bella’s constant chatter, jumping, and pinching for the past twenty minutes, do you think there’s a chance that I might accidentally explode and be harsher than I should be?

Naaaaaaah bro, you’re good.  I’m sure she’ll listen the first time you tell her.

Cool.  Oh, and one more thing — Phaedra’s not really into loud voices, and she likes her sister.  Is it going to upset her to see me yell at her sister?

Dude, are you high?  No way.  Just get this shit under control, and everything will be OK.

Pictured: Shit totally under control at 1:00 a.m.

So I immediately begin using tactics that I fully believe will work, even though they are the complete opposite of what will actually work.  I try things that I would never do during the daytime.  I get pushy and nit-picky with Phaedra, which only makes her more indecisive and want to stall longer.  Yelling and using harsh tones with Bella works about 0% of the time during the daytime, so why do I think it will work at bedtime, when she’s at her absolute worst?

Here’s why: because I’m at my absolute worst as well.  The worst thing about bedtime is that it’s bedtime. We’re all exhausted, tired, and cranky, but only two of us want to solve this problem by actually laying down in a bed and going to sleep.  The other two don’t make the “tired = sleep” connection.  They try to solve their tiredness by trying to push through some sort of no-sleep wall, seemingly believing that if you can just stay awake long enough, there’s some sort of reset function that will let you not feel tired anymore without that pesky sleeping thing (Phaedra), or by shifting into overdrive, throwing their body into a constant state of movement and sound, until their body short-circuits (read: starts screaming loudly and repetitively) and finally collapses (Bella).  Neither of these strategies are really conducive to a good bedtime routine.

So I get angry.  Because I WANT TO GO TO SLEEP.  NOW.

Like I said before, when I’m tired and at my worst, I have a hard time remembering that all these poor babies want is me.  However, when there’s three tired, cranky babies that each want their tired, cranky mom all to themselves, it’s bound to cause some friction sometimes.  Friction that makes me want to wake them back up about two minutes after the last one finally passes out and apologize for all that yelling I did.  Give them big hugs and remind them how much I love them, how I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing, that I screw up a lot, that it’s not their fault.

But I never do that, because that would be fucking crazy.

This entry was posted in Debbie Downer, Joan Crawford parenting, sleep (or lack thereof). Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Working on My Bedtime Manner

  1. Oh my God. Bedtime. The worst thing EVER CREATED.

    I hear you, my dear. I hear you loud and clear. I’m not sure whose tantrum was worse tonight, mine or my 5yo daughter’s.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I only have one so my life is infinitely easier than yours but we’ve come to a little understanding in my house. As long as the banging and crashing isn’t too loud, you keep the door closed and don’t call me for anything but arterial blood, I’ll pretend you’re actually asleep. Fair enough? I thought so.

  3. Nothing wears me out faster than trying to get my kids to go to sleep. You are not alone, my friend.

  4. Janel says:

    I like this “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy you have going on, Anonymous. I may have to look into that.

  5. Kristin says:

    Who are these people whose kids are magically laundered and in bed by 7pm. I don’t get it. And the times I’ve let my kid CIO for more than a few minutes, I feel like an awful human being (it just doesn’t work for us, okay?).

    I will say, Desmond goes to bed (and stays in bed) way easier for other people. Lately though, we’re having mild success by giving him warnings leading up to bedtime – “Going to bed right after this show.” “Bedtime in 15 minutes…” He fears change. I was/am the same way.

  6. Janel says:

    Kristin: I know. I tried CIO once with Phaedra when she was about 14 months old, and after about three minutes of listening to her cry hysterically, I crashed into her room, scooped her up, and promised to never ever do it again. Doesn’t work for me. My kids also seem to sleep better for other people. Now that they’re older, while they do get up at least once every night, they just wander into our room and go back to sleep in our bed on their own. Usually we wake up and go, “Huh. Look who showed up in our bed.” I agree, the warnings are key, especially for Bella. She has a tough time with transitions, so she needs the warnings. For Phaedra, it’s basically letting her know how much longer she has to come up with strategies to delay bedtime.

  7. Debs says:

    Just in case you’re watching your stats and wondering who’s been rummaging around in your old posts – it was me! I just finished reading your entire blog! And i’ll be sticking close to await fresh posts 🙂

  8. Janel says:

    Welcome! Let me apologize right now for any posts you read pre-2010. *cringe*

  9. trinlayk says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. trinlayk says:

    this entry is my introduction to your blog so hopefully I’m not too far behind the curve.

    …and my kid somehow survived to 25 but still is up all night. (fortunately she has a life that will accommodate that.)

    If you have a “day job” the pressure/stress of trying to get the kids to bed and actually SLEEPING at a decent school night hour is incredible isn’t it?
    Don’t know how I managed, and sometimes I didn’t…

    looks like you are already doing the bedtime ritual routine. though yeah when you have a kid excited about books it’s hard to say “that’s enough” after one story or one chapter. “Let me just finish this paragraph/chapter” can easily turn minutes into hours. Heck, I pulled that as a kid too. (and not on purpose, I got sucked in by the action! really!)

    when I was succeeding the key seemed to be consistency. (hahahaha, yeah “I can’t work overtime or my kid will be up ALL NIGHT” goes over soooo well) Dinner at the same time every evening (between 6:30-7) homework before that if possible (hahahaha, I got home at 6pm! ) maybe ONE TV show, OR 1 hr of play. 30 min for baths/showers & dressing for bed. One story and then EVERYONE (Me too! I was WIPED by then) in their own beds and going to sleep.

    Of course this is less useful when elderly relative is insomniac and up at midnight watching TV… (then even if the TV is incredibly quiet, everyone is up again…)

    AAAnny way, so you aren’t alone, I think this happens to 90% of the parents out there at least SOME of the time (even if they’d never admit it). Someday the kids will be grown up, and maybe you’ll get a decent sleep then.

    If I could get her active and getting tired before dinner or just after, YAY… and sometimes the showers have to happen in the morning…IF you can get anyone up in time for that.

  11. Janel says:

    Thanks! Agreed, they do seem to do better on a consistent routine, but our schedules just don’t let us do the same thing two nights in a row. We do what we can, and they repay us by proving to us that THEY WANT A SCHEDULE, DUMMIES! One day they’ll get us trained. 🙂

  12. Jenn says:

    My kryptonite is nap time. He’s 3.5, and probably ready to give it up, but I’m not! It takes a lot of yelling and timeouts to get him down.

    I’ve been an insomniac since birth, so I’m more understanding than my husband about bedtime. I let him take one or two board books to bed. If he can’t sleep, he can “read,” but if I hear a peep, I take them.

  13. Tracy says:

    I also use the “if there isn’t too much noise I’m just going to pretend she’s asleep” plan. She’s allowed books, stuffed animals and Barbies in the bed. Because she knows she can play until she feels tired she goes right up to bed and she usually falls asleep within 45 minutes or so. It really saves everyone’s sanity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *