The Bedtime Routine: A Mother's Tale
I’ve spoken recently about the horror that is the school run and mornings in general, but I will now tackle the night-time situation.
My husband works nights, so it is something I have to endeavour solo. I don't want to sound too dramatic, but it may lead to a drink problem/intensive therapy with Barbara Streisand’s therapist, Lowenstein in Prince of Tides.
I start looking at the clock about 5pm and want to weep when I see how far from bedtime we are. I momentarily consider initiating a game/craft and having fun with them like they do in movies and on pinterest, but the sink is full as is the washing machine (I will bitterly regret not playing with them when they are sleeping beautifully later, as I dissect the day and cross examine my parenting with the harshness of a pissed off Judge Judy).
At 6, I optimistically run a bath and the 3 of them tear up the stairs, gleefully flinging clothes everywhere which I later have to examine and sniff-test to determine re-wearability. The bath becomes as chaotic as I imagine the Titanic sinking scene was to film, and I empathise with James Cameron.
My gentle admonishments not to get water on the floor quickly escalate to roars after a "sorry (not sorry) mommy" soaking and insane empty threats regarding no technology (this would make bedtime an impossibility) and they call my bluff till I pull the plug.
I wrap two of them in towels, but the 3 year old always evades capture and runs soaking wet into my bedroom and hurls himself onto my bed for maximum assholery. If this were the 1950s I’d be swallowing handfuls of valium by now, but I see a glass of wine and netflix in my future and I hang on to this image with a steely determination.
Dried and pyjamed, I put the 8 year old in his bed with his tablet and a half hour curfew, the 3 year old in his bottom bunk watching someone open 100 kinder surprise eggs on youtube and the 5 year old in my bed with Plants vs Zombies.
I run down the stairs and get their waters, with ice cubes and straws (I’m to blame for a lot of their diva behaviour, I know, I know, I'm an enabler). The 3 year old wants milk and it has to be warm… not hot, or it will be sent back.
The next bit is tricky, I would liken it to the which wire will I cut bit in a movie... everyone wants mammy time and cuddles and I have to make many difficult decisions. Last night, my middle man wanted me to sing Close To You by The Carpenters to him… he thinks it was written for him, as do the other 2 (and my husband.. but that's a different bedtime routine).
I was stroking his hair and singing like I always imagined a perfect mother would, when the 3 year old burst in like the kid out of Pet Sematary demanding his song time. The 8 year old ran in to salvage things and said he’d read to middle while I settled the youngest.
I read Baby Brains to him and sang and as he began to doze, the two older boys tiptoed in and stage whispered MAM. Aggggghhhhh and here is the point where I lose my shit… it’s now 9pm and my life’s work for the last 3 hours has been getting them to bed. They all scatter as they see my face change colour and my rhetorical questions start; “Am I not tired? Am I not hungry?”
Damn. I made a rookie mistake and mentioned hunger..”Mammmmm can I have an apple/ toast/ chateaubriand?” “NOOOOOOO get into bed for the love of God!!!” Technology is taken and despite numerous time lapse warnings, it’s as if I am taking a camera away from a Kardashian.
I will give the eldest extra time and a book which he begrudgingly takes but I know he'll be just as grief stricken when I take it away in a half hour.
Five year old will have passed out in this time as he loves his sleep (can’t think where he got that trait from). Three year old puts up a final fight with a loo trip and demand for more WARM milk. I feel the wine slipping away, admit defeat and brush my teeth.
I cuddle my firstborn and apologise for shouting and he rubs my arm saying “I know it’s hard Mam”. I give him ten more minutes reading time for being lovely and check the others. They are so beautiful and my heart aches and guilt taps me menacingly on the shoulder. I lift the 5 year old and place him on the top bunk and think my back may need some physio at some point. Eventually, I get into bed about 10.30 and watch 15 minutes of Netflix before I slip into a coma.