Bedtime can be the most excruciating time of the day.
The kids are teetering on the brink of exhaustion and instead of embracing it like a normal person and saying “You know, I think I’m going to head to bed and get some sleep” they decide that this is the best time to do a frantic cha-cha slide butt naked in the living room after bath. Or sob hysterically because you didn’t let them hold a Q-tip while cleaned their ears. Then there is you. You were ready for them to go to bed at 4:30pm. Tired simply doesn’t do justice to the dull ache of exhaustion you feel down in your very soul after taking care of your brood all day.
After the whole rigmarole of a flawlessly executed, never-varying nighttime routine, you gently close the door to their bedroom. A foolish onlooker might think this means you are officially off duty but any veteran parent knows that this is only the beginning. This is when children mount their final resistance. They will not go gentle into the that good night. No, they will rage against the dying of the light. And seriously push every single bleeping button of yours until you’re hissing “GO THE F TO SLEEP” as you grip the baby monitor so tightly that it explodes in your hand.
Frustration aside, and trust me, I have A LOT of that, the ingenuity employed by toddlers at bedtime is not completely lost on me. Bladders need repeated emptying – AJR is a urinary camel, yet he needs a minimum of two trips to the bathroom after we tuck him in. How can you deny someone’s right to pee? I’m pretty sure it’s in the constitution. A desperate, unquenchable thirsts overtakes them and the only cure is repeated drinks of water. And again. And just one more sip! What is it about the darkness that is so dehydrating? Blankets need to be re-tucked multiple since toddler arms and hands turn into strands of limp linguine and cease to work after 7pm. Tokens of affection are requested repeatedly until your lips are chap and biceps burning from frequent hugs. Curiosity is its most piqued at bedtime and it’s natural for a toddle to engage you in a game of 20 questions. With each question being a simple, yet infuriating “why”.
AJR is no exception. His stall game is strong. I’m talking so much stalling that it can be anywhere from 20 – 60 minutes before he falls asleep, give or take whether he napped that day. For awhile he was utilizing the standard stuff (see above) but lately his repertoire has been pushing the envelope and thinking outside the toddler box.
Tags in clothing are a no no and only seem to bother him once the door closes. This kid could have a clothing tag made out of sandpaper in his shirt all day and would not complain. But PJs he’s been wearing for a year without complaint suddenly MUST have the tags cut out. I’ve tried reasoning with him but he gives me this “listen lady, I’m content to sit here all night holding this tag and staring you down if you want to stand your ground. Or, cut the f’ing tag out and do us both a favor because you ain’t winning this battle.” look. I consider putting my foot down but honestly it is faster to cut the tag out rather than engage in a battle of wills when Netflix is whispering my name. I have, however, gotten into the habit of cutting any tags out before we get into bed – so who’s winning now, AJR??
Sometimes I make the rookie mistake of trying to eat dinner before he’s fully asleep when the handful of Goldfish swimming around in my belly just won’t do. This kid has the nose of a German Shepherd and when I roll in for kiss #32 of the night he sniffs and says “Mommy, what do you have in your mouth? What are you making” I should start answering “the bones of little boys that don’t go to sleep right away” but I’d like to avoid giving him nightmares and thus, more reasons to wake up at night. Usually I cheerily deny that I’ve eaten anything at all and run out of the room before he presses further. To give him a real answer only invites him to lead me down a line of questioning that results in a lukewarm dinner waiting for me once I finish being interrogated.
There are the semi-clever and interesting observations he makes about objects in his room that I’m called in for and supposed to be amazed by. Great, you noticed there is a baseball in your room. It’s only been in there SINCE YOU WERE BORN. Or the super creepy things he says that make me want to sage his room the next day. Like when he points to the wall and asks “what is that?” and THERE IS NOTHING EVEN THERE! Awesome. Not only do I have a kid that refuses to sleep, I have a ghost problem on my hands.
Then there is the flat-out, bold-faced maneuver of refusing to lay down so I can tuck him back in. A technique that moves me to such frustration that I simply have to turn on my heel, slam the door as gently as I can without waking up Olivia, and leave him stewing in his own defiance. Once the door is shut mournful wails of “MOOMMMMYYYYYY! COME BAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!” begin and I hear Olivia rustling so I open the door and he promptly lays down and asks for another tuck and a kiss. Begrudgingly, I kiss my little manipulator and take my flaring nostrils out of the room.
After 3-5 times of Joe and I running in, AJR finally relents and starts his nonsensical chatter and drifts off to sleep because he’s either so tired that he can’t mentally come up with another excuse to draw us in or he’s simply bored with making us his bitches.
At AJR’s recent check-up the pediatrician cautiously asked the “so, anything else you want to discuss?” question and I brought up his nighttime shenanigans. Because if there’s one thing I love to talk to the doctor about endlessly, it’s sleep. She simply told me that he is being intentionally manipulative and I have to sack up and let him cry it out. Then she made a suggestion that seriously almost made me hug her : she told me to get a lock for his door. I say almost because, well, I already have a lock on the door from when we moved AJR to the big boy bed. But still, it was nice to have one of my more questionable parenting moves validated by an actual M.D. so HOORAY! Rot in your carefully curated and coordinated room forever, AJR! A doctor said I can let you.
Basically, toddlers are downright diabolical when it comes to resisting sleep. What clever ways are your kids stalling at bedtime and sucking the life out of you by refusing to lay down and go to sleep?