Friday, May 13, 2011

Lullaby, and Goodnight

Do you ever feel like a hostage in your own home at your children's bedtime? I'm wagering that there is no other parenting frontier--dinnertime, perhaps--upon which kids launch stealthier and more concerted attacks. The range of tactics employed--including stalling, faking, sleights of hand, and feigned injury--and the rate at which they're changed up make me think even the Navy Seals could learn a thing or two from the Kids' Bedtime Ops Manual.

I respect parents' discretion in determining how they put their children to bed; some moms and dads I know enjoy spending an hour or more reading, snuggling, tucking, singing. Before we were parents, we were invited for dinner at the home of friends with small children.  When we noted that our friends spent much of the evening tag-teaming putting their children to bed, husband and I vowed not to let bedtime rule our roost. Oh, how much more easily said by the childless than done by the besieged!  We have to remain on high alert just to keep the list of pre-sleep tasks confined to a reasonable number.

Big Sis is, for the most part, past the shock-and-awe stage of attention-getting at bedtime.  She will employ the I-can't-sleep-will-you-rub-my-back technique or I-can't-stop-thinking-about-people-in-our-family-dying ploy on occasion, both of which tend to draw us to the bedroom to dole out the TLC. 

Little Sis, on the other hand, is a masterful and creative staller (read here for her antics from two years ago) for whom we have limited sympathy.  Her latest and favorite strategies are the Come out of Bed to Ask a Random Question ("Hi.  Where am I going tomorrow?"  Eye rolling.  "School."  "Oh yeah!  I forgot!") and the Identify a Fatal Wound  to Report (Crying:  "Mooooooom, this morning at school I got sand in my eye and now it really really REALLY stings..."  "Sorry.  Get in bed.").

The other night at the dinner table we were reviewing our scheduled activities for the week. I explained that Dad was at a meeting tonight and would be home after bedtime; I would be at lacrosse and volleyball games tomorrow evening. We cleaned up the dishes, finished homework, and began getting ready for bed.

Little Sis gets to choose three books to have read to her each evening, and then Big Sis joins in for the read-aloud book (currently Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which I highly recommend). Teeth are brushed, and then it's climb-into-bed time. We turn on the hall light and the flower light, as well as the star lights under the bunk bed. We kiss and hug and sometimes sing or tell a brief tale. The girls read books in their beds for a bit before they fall asleep. And then all lights are out.

Big Sis has a book box attached to the side of her bed; Little Sis piles her books beside her bed. At some point we added to her tasks in the morning that she needs to reshelve her books from the night before, or we don't bring her new ones. But we're softies. Or, at least one of the parents is a softie. Which is why I was called out on Tuesday night.

"Moooooooom, can you bring me books? Can I have cold water?"

"I think you can get up and get your own books," I responded from the couch. "And if you want cold water, you need to remember to get yourself some before you get in bed."

"Oh yeah? How come Daddy always brings me books and cold water? You never bring me books and water."

"Are you saying I am a mean mommy?"

"Well, Daddy always brings me books and cold water. He never makes me get them myself."

I sighed, relenting, not cherishing the distinction of cold, unloving parent. I grabbed some books off the shelf and brought her fresh cold water. "Okay, I am giving these to you tonight, but tomorrow night you need to remember to get them yourself."

"Umm.  Mommy.  Tomorrow night you're going to be at a lacrosse game."

She smiled sweetly.  "Can I have a kiss?"


Kate said...

Those girls have your number! :-)

CJ said...