It has been said that one should “let sleeping dogs lie.” This is sound advice, however, it fails to explain just how to get the dogs lying and sleeping in the first place. Getting my two wiggly, giggly girls into bed is a losing battle that begins shortly after dinner and carries on through the entire evening, leaving me exhausted from the sheer amount of pushing, arguing, and gnashing of teeth that it involves.
When they were quite small, it didn’t seem as taxing. I would put them into bed, they would cry and sometimes come wandering back out, at which point, I would take them back. At the very least, it was a simple game.
As they got older, it became more and more complicated. They have mastered the technique of making excuses for postponing bedtime and for getting out of bed after I’ve finally gotten them there. Somehow, they have honed in on just what to say in order to give their excuses just enough legitimacy to keep me from bodily forcing them into the bed and duct-taping them to the mattress. Their creativity in this department is within the realm of prodigy.
Every night, shortly after dinner, I make the announcement in my stern and commanding voice that it is time to get ready for bed. As scripted, my darling daughters begin with their opening arguments.
“But, DAD! It’s only six thirty! Bedtime is at eight thirty! Why do we have to start getting ready now?”
I give my standard reply, “Bedtime is at eight thirty, but I know that it will take at least two hours to get you wild animals ready and calmed down! In fact, we might be hard-pressed to actually make the eight thirty deadline.”
This argument we are having now, usually takes at least twenty-five minutes to complete.
Once this argument has run its course, we begin the slow and painful process of getting them into pajamas. This alone can take up to forty-five minutes, and usually sounds something like this:
“I can’t find any clean pajamas…I don’t like this pair…Natalie is wearing my pajama bottoms…but they don’t fit Hannah anymore and Mom said they were now mine…This pair makes me itch…that pair always smells like cauliflower.”
And all the while, I am firing back responses in the name of bedtime progress:
“Did you look in your drawer…You don’t have to like them; you just have to wear them…Your butt quit fitting in that pair two years ago; they barely fit Natalie…Wear them and scratch wherever they itch…Then put on the pair that you say always smells like lemons…GO TO BED NAKED, FOR ALL I CARE!”
Finally, the pajamas have been put on. My wife, sensing my growing irritation and fatigue, usually jumps in about now to give me a short break from the nightly fray. On this particular evening, she orders them:
“Go wash your teeth and brush your face.”
Now she’s gone and done it. What would seem to most people as a simple slip of the tongue, will now add at least twenty minutes onto the nightly routine. The peanut gallery, quick to take advantage of such a folly, starts up with their predictable silliness:
“HA HA HA! Mom said wash your teeth and brush my face! Giggle, giggle! OK, MOM, I’M BRUSHING MY FACE! HA HA…HEY, MOM, WANT ME TO FLUSH MY BUTT AND WIPE THE TOILET? HEE HEEE!” and so on.
I do my best to put out this fire of additional delay, “All right, it wasn’t all that funny…Let’s settle down…That’s enough butt and toilet talk, Natalie! C’mon, girls, get it under control.”
Once they have finally been pajama’d and toothbrushed, it is time to try to actually get them into their beds. Knowing that it was now this time, they both scatter as if the crack of a pistol had signaled the start of a race. Natalie runs to find her blankie. Hannah wants a book to read in bed.
“Where’s the cat? I always take the cat to bed.”
“Momma didn’t give me a hug.”
“I think I forgot to brush my one front tooth that I always forget to brush.”
The excuses to delay the process flow like a river.
Doing my best to keep them heading in the direction of bed, I begin to feel like a soccer player chasing two little girl soccer balls. I try in vain to keep kicking them toward the goal, but even the best World Cup player never had to deal with two soccer balls at once.
Within half an hour or so, I finally kick two goals and they are now in bed, but there is little relief in this fact.
I then head back downstairs to my recliner, where I await the next phase of sleep avoidance by the two bouncy soccer balls. This comes in the form of an endless parade of trips back downstairs.
(Footsteps coming downstairs)
“I forgot my drink.”
“You have exactly three seconds to get your drink and get back in bed!”
(Footsteps coming downstairs)
“Natalie won’t lie with her butt flat on the bed because she’s afraid that a robber might be hiding under the bed with a gun, and she doesn’t want to get shot in the butt.”
“Tell Natalie that she is being ridiculous. There is nobody with a gun hiding under the bed. It would be way too hard to aim a gun in that little space. If there is someone hiding in the room with a gun, they are probably in the closet.”
(Footsteps coming downstairs)
(Sobbing) “The cat bit my nose.”
“What was Dad’s rule for kissing the cat good night?”
“You said to never give her a kiss good night when her eyes are big and her ears are flat, but her eyes weren’t big, she just had flat ears!”
“Ok, now we know that we don’t kiss the cat good night if either her ears are flat OR her eyes are big. Get a Band-Aid and go to bed.”
Sometime around midnight, the footsteps stop coming down the stairs. I now have a few precious moments to relax, maybe even take a short nap. The girls have to be ready for school at seven o’clock, and in order to make this deadline, we have to begin waking them up at about five o’clock. Just in time to start the “Never Ending Battle” morning shift.
Like this story? There's a whole book of them! Single Family Asylum