Bedtime. I shudder just thinking about it. There are plenty of things that I like about bedtime, like how my toddler gets what we call the "sleepy sillies" and starts running back and forth and giggling for no apparent reason. I like singing songs and seeing my little toddler giggle and clap during my performances. I like sharing many of my favorite books and stories from childhood with my own kids, and cuddling and giving kisses and all of that. However, as great as the aforementioned can be (and is), it's also true that bedtime is the worst part of every parent's day.
I empathize with my kid, and I really do understand some of their resistance to bedtime. I don’t usually like sleeping alone, either, and I know there’s a biological reason why kids want to be all up under their parents at bedtime. The fact that they want to stay awake and hang out with us is actually a huge honor, and I love that they love us so much they don't want our day together to end. The feeling is totally mutual.
However, for at least a few hours they gotta deal, because grown folks gotta be grown folks, without kids, for at least a couple of hours every day. Clearly kids know this (or will, eventually), but would rather try to make us earn that previous and necessary "alone" time by making the moments before it as difficult as possible. Maybe we can spin it like they're doing us a favor and maybe, just maybe, deep down they know that the harder we have to fight to get them to go to bed, the more we'll appreciate it when they finally do. Yeah, that's what I'll tell myself tonight, when facing all of the things that make bedtime the worst, up to and definitely including the following:
Everyone Is Tired And Cranky
Kids rarely recognize they’re tired until they are basically asleep. So, by the time bedtime approaches, they are super tired but they don’t realize it. Instead of succumbing to exhaustion, they just lurch around, whining and complaining about literally everything and getting horrifically upset for the tiniest reasons, because they don’t realize that everything they hate at the moment has exactly one root cause: their unwillingness to just go the f*ck to sleep. The irritation factor of this situation is amplified by the fact that we, the parents, are also tired.
Children Do Not Appreciate Sleep...
If someone was chasing me down trying to make me go to sleep, well, wait; that would never happen because no one would ever have to chase me down to make me go to sleep. I would welcome their efforts with open arms and from the comfort of my warm, cozy bed. The fact that kids do not appreciate something you so desperately want just adds insult to bedtime-fighting injury. Y'all don't even know how good you got it.
...So They Stall
Kids are super creative and the ultimate masters of passive resistance. Activists and anyone else seeking to get really good at fighting for a cause, should spend a few weeks trying to put kids to bed while simultaneously observing the variety of tactics they deploy. My kids can slow or stop the bedtime machine, then strategically becoming limp and difficult to move when that fails. It would be impressive, if it wasn't also annoying.
Whether it’s asking for eighty glasses of water, negotiating (quite deftly, I’ll admit) for more bedtime stories, "losing" their must-have bedtime items, or other little moves that disrupt the flow of their bedtime routine, they know that if they can push you off of your agenda, they can force you onto theirs. They know every moment we spend doing all this other stuff, are moments not spent going to bed.
If You Have More Than One Kid, They Will Gang Up On You
Now that my toddler has to spend the first part of the night in his own bed, he has discovered the benefit of teaming up with his sister to delay bedtime. He’ll ask for something outside of his room, like water or dad, and then he’ll run to her room, where ad dis attempting to get her to sleep. Then they’ll start snuggling and cuddling and saying good night “just one more time!” but looking straight at us the entire time because they know we won’t stop them. Y’all are turning love into a weapon and it’s adorable and devious AF.
Toddlers With Teeth
My toddler acts like I am trying to kill him every time I try to get him to brush his teeth at night. In the morning, he typically has no problem with this procedure, and I can appreciate that. However, at night, no matter how early (to avoid excessive fatigue) or late (to maybe catch him when he’s too tired to fight) I make the attempt, it’s a nightmare. The screaming, the biting, the hitting, the you freakin' name it. This normally adorable, funny, sweet child just becomes unrecognizable.
You Can See The Finish Line…
All that stands between us and a few hours to ourselves is the distance between these children’s top and bottom eyelids. It’s. So. Close.
...But It Feels So Far Away
But they know. They know. They freakin' know and they’re not going down without a fight.
You Have So Many Things You Want To Do When They’re Asleep...
As soon as they’re asleep, you can have sex and watch bad TV and read books that don’t rhyme and maybe exercise, but mostly eat junk food you don't feel like sharing. You can take a shower uninterrupted and enjoy a deep conversation with your parenting partner and...
...But You’re Tired
You’ll probably just fall asleep immediately, because exhaustion.
No More Playtime Until Tomorrow
Once they finally fall asleep, you can see how cute and sweet they really and truly are, and then you remember how much you like playing with them and spending time together. You just can’t until tomorrow, because they’re sleeping. Damn.