It is the final hurdle. Energy that has been stretched, reused and gathered for this penultimate moment: bedtime. The word is starting to send shivers down my spine, and not in a good way. ‘Is it going to be one of those nights tonight?’ I wonder as we prepare to go through the numerous steps that have become necessary to cushion the inevitable blow of requiring him to go to sleep.
In my mind, I see it going smoothly. We chat together about the moments of his day, I listen with interest to the funny stories and conundrums that he has witnessed whilst forging his independence. We embrace and I tell him how much I love him, easing the door half-closed as he drifts peacefully off to sleep.
Of course, this is not often the reality, and when it does happen I feel an increased sense of frustration for all the nights when the story is more like this:
Ask nicely for him to get into bed. Watch as he demonstrates somersaults on top of the covers and repeat request, this time in a strained voice. His legs duck under the quilt for a few seconds, then re-emerge again – stretching to the ceiling of the bunk above, words rapidly being tuned out as you try to engage. Then, when he has finally settled, the questions come – random ones, unpredictable. Any possible combination of words strung together in the form of a query. “That’s the last question”, I warn. Three more are fired back. I try and edge out of the room backwards whilst declining requests about doing a high five game with him or ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’. I exit. Cue rage. “I’m NOT going to BED!”
One of those nights. Again.
I quickly turn into Mother Ogre – taking away every good thing I can think of, lecturing incessantly on the importance of sleep and making good choices. Dave takes over, playing ‘good cop’, waiting it out until finally the magic sounds of steady breathing emerge from the bottom bunk. In the meantime, I busy myself ‘guilt cleaning’ – so frustrated at my inability to manage the situation – and pour the tiny remainder of my energy into penance.
An hour later, battleworn and weary, we both emerge to find most of the night wasted away in the pursuit of a seemingly simple goal. Sleep.
Why is this process so difficult? Why does it press all my buttons and red flag my worst fears about myself? I begin to preach high-mindedly about boundaries, consequences, being a hard-ass. Dave flips the other way and pleads for grace, flexibility, understanding. We clash.
I wish this could be a post about ‘Five Ways to Do Bedtime Well’. Maybe that will come with more experience. All I know is that right now, the battle is draining and frustrating, and I wish I knew how to make it into an enjoyable experience for us both.
Do you have any tips for doing bedtime well? What have you found that works/doesn’t work? Any advice is much appreciated!