There are the “good” bedtimes, where both kids cooperate. They do what they need to in the bathroom, brush their teeth without a fuss, put on their pyjamas, and then lie down together quietly on James’ bed without fighting, waiting for their bedtime cup of milk and their story. They are model children, like little smiling angels.
Then, there are the “challenging” bedtimes (I hesitate to use the word “bad” because that sends negative karma into the universe).
These are the ones where I cannot pry George away from his computer, where he’s watching the “Annoying Orange” videos that I haven’t succeeded in blocking (look them up on YouTube – you’ll see why they need to be blocked).
They are the bedtimes where James strips off his clothes and runs around the house like a speed demon, waving his willy around as if he’s trying to lasso a runaway steer, all while yelling at the top of his lungs, “Mommy is a fee-fee-head!” On evenings like this, getting my kids into bed is like herding cats.
Guess which category most bedtimes fall into.
Last week we had a bedtime that was particularly brutal (For me. For the kids, it was funny.) The entire family had been ill with a vicious gastroenteritis bug that had resulted in an overnight hospital stay for James and had taken him out of half of his daycare for a week. As a result of this chaos, the normal bedtime routine (I use the word “normal” very loosely) had completely gone out the window.
This particular evening was the first time everyone was well enough for us to resume regular routines. Both kids were completely recovered, and although I was feeling better myself, I was so exhausted from the adventures of the previous week that I could have wept. The kids must have picked up on this. When I’m feeling tired or sick, they tend to dial-up the noise and the running around and the mess-making and the mischief to maximum levels.
It’s like that thing that happens in the wild, where animals pick on the weakest member of the herd.
I stumbled around the house in a fog of exhaustion, looking for the kids’ pyjamas, which always end up in interesting, hard-to-find places when they take them off in the mornings. With pyjamas in hand, I went to each of the kids in turn.
“James, please put on your pyjamas,” I said politely.
“OK, Mommy,” he said, ever-so-sweetly.
I went to George, who was sitting on the couch playing with his Alphabet Apple.
“George, please put on your pyjamas.”
“Nopes,” he said, in his sweet lyrical voice.
George’s habitual use of the word “nopes” somehow takes the edge off the sentiment expressed by a simple “no”. George, I suspect, knows this, and uses it to his advantage. It’s very hard to get mad at a kid who’s looking at you with big blue eyes while gently saying, “Nopes.”
I tossed the pyjamas at my betrothed, wearily asking him to bully his son into putting on his pyjamas, and I went off to check on James.
James had stripped off his clothes and was lying naked on his bed, using a Magic Marker to colour in the picture of the sheep on his pyjama top. I sighed and silently counted to ten, and then wrestled James into his pyjamas while he screamed at the top of his lungs, “I want to do it myself! I! WANT! TO! DO! IT! MY! SELF!”
When his pyjamas were on, he went running to his Dad, crying as if the world was ending. He tearfully said to his Dad, “I wanted to put on my pyjamas myself, and Mommy wouldn’t LET me!”
Oh dear. Once again, I am the evil parent.
While James was telling Gerard how mean I was, George spilled juice all over his pyjama top. This was not an accident. He looked me right in the eye, and giggling as if this was the funniest thing in the world, he poured the juice down his front. I counted to ten (again) and spent the next ten minutes digging around in the mound of clean laundry that hadn’t been put away in search of clean pyjamas, for a kid who refuses to wear all but two pairs. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
I confess that although I found clean pyjama bottoms, the top came from the pile of unwashed laundry. Not my most stellar parenting moment.
Now that both kids had on clean pyjamas (well, clean if you count a sheep made bright blue by Magic Marker and a top that had been previously bound for the washing machine), I had to actually get them into bed. I cannot recount the details of this experience, because I always try very hard to block traumatic memories from my mind. I can still hear the screams from that evening – the screams in my head, that is.
I will say that getting them to bed involved toothpaste smeared onto the bathroom wall directly from the tube (James), a full basket of clean and folded laundry tipped over and dispersed throughout the house (George), a game of “Chinese Fight” (a wrestling match that George and James engage in that is as sinister as the name – coined by James – suggests), and much counting to ten (me).
Somehow I got them into bed, and somehow they actually went to sleep, having no doubt exhausted themselves with their antics.
Somehow, I managed to survive that evening without turning into a raging alcoholic (although I confess that wine was consumed once the little cherubs were snoring blissfully).
How do you cope when your children are running wild? Do you tend to lose it or does your inner Zen take over and keep you calm?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Kirsten Jessiman of Toronto, Canada. Kirsten can also be found on her blog, Running for Autism.
Photo credit of sleeping boys (taken about three years ago) to Kirsten Jessiman.