It's a Thursday night at 6:55 p.m. and I've just walked in the door with my 10-year-old ("C") after a long day. My sitter is giving my 10-month-old ("J") a bottle, and my 7-year-old ("W") is getting ready to watch Jeopardy (I encourage Jeopardy because it's "educational," but what he's really learning is that Mommy can answer one or two questions at best). At 7:00 my sitter leaves and I can feel the craziness about to set in.
I ask C if she wants dinner. "I'm not hungry!" she calls, as she grabs her phone and scurries off to her bedroom, where she'll check in with musical.ly to see who made what kind of slime that day. I sit down on the couch to feed J the rest of his bottle. He swats it away as if it's a pesky, zika-carrying mosquito, and squirms out of my arms. Gone are the days when he would cuddle with me and let me nuzzle his cheek for as long as I liked.
The next 30 minutes are a blur. W wants to tell me all about his day and, as much as I want to give him my undivided attention, it's nearly impossible because J is constantly teetering on the edge of something, threatening to fall backward and smack his head on the floor. I try my best to interact with W since I haven't seen him all day, while at the same time calling to C over and over to put the phone down and start her homework; devices aren't allowed in our home during the week, but that rule is broken often.
At 7:30 I take J to his room to put on his nighttime diaper and pajamas. As I lay him down on the changing table, I realize that he's pooped. And it's not a graceful poop that will disappear easily with a wipe or two--it's a mess. Before I can stop him, his feet and hands are in it and he's laughing in my face in a "What are you going to do now???" kind of way. As I'm trying to simultaneously wipe him down, stop him from getting poop in his mouth and on the walls, and prevent him from diving off the changing table, C skips into the room and announces, in an aggrieved tone, that she "hasn't had dinner yet," W calls out from the living room that even though he's had dinner, he's still hungry, and J pees all over himself, the wall, and the pajamas I had taken out. At that moment, my phone dings with a comedically timed text from my husband, who's at the Rangers game: "How's it going?"
I should say...I love this craziness. I thrive on it. Yes, I complain about it and have to take deep breaths throughout the evening in order to get through it, but I love my family and I'm grateful that I'm able to be home with my children every night during the wild ride that is bedtime. And I don't begrudge my husband his nights out. He works hard and he deserves some down time. We all do. But the point of my story is that, for me, bedtime routines are a thing of the past, something that happened a decade ago when we had one baby. Now I just do my best to get everyone into bed at a respectable time, read with my 7-year-old for a few minutes, and talk to my 10-year-old about "Stuff," which just last year, when she was 9, was only "stuff." These crazy night don't always feel successful, and the routine isn't calm and peaceful. The routine, if it can even be called that, is madness and energy and love. I'm doing my best. We all are.