I remember being a kid and procrastinating at bedtime. So, it’s no surprise that my kids are carrying on that nightly tradition. I’m sure all parents can relate, because there are excuses every mom hears when it’s time for bed. Some are ridiculous to the point that they're hilarious, but most are just tiresome and mildly annoying. I try not to fall for any of them, but when my kids go all puppy dog-eyed on me, it’s so hard to resist their pleas to stay up later.
In trying to see the positive side of this very frustrating ritual, I consider not only how creative this forces my children to be in coming up with new (yet rarely believable) excuses, but what good practice it is for me to enforce my status as the parent. There really is no legitimate reason for my kids to stay up past their bedtimes. Trust me, I know, because on the nights they get fewer than 10 hours of sleep, they are miserably cranky (which makes me miserably cranky) the next day. I may relax this rule in the future, or perhaps on weekend nights, but for now, when they are just eight and six years old, getting to bed on time is a top priority.
Of course, that doesn’t stop them from coming up with excuses on a regular basis, as if every night they've pressed the "reset" button and, somewhat valiantly, try again. I do have to give them credit for their consistent effort, I suppose. It shows grit, and I can respect that. So, join me in reciting these excuses every mom hears when it’s time for her kid to go to bed:
"I Just Need To Get A Drink Of Water"
Classic. I think kids are programmed to clamor for hydration, which is counterintuitive when attempting to acquire a good night’s sleep. I mean, a full bladder is not what I want my kids to have when I put them down for the night. Instead, I put water bottles next to their beds, so it's there if they want it (and they typically don’t).
“I Have To Use The Bathroom”
Another tried and untrue response to bedtime. The bathroom turns into the most magical place on Earth when it’s time for sleep. Before they were potty-trained, they inevitably needed a diaper change just as I was putting them in their crib. Well played.
“I Forgot To Brush My Teeth”
This would be likely in our house, if my husband wasn’t militant about oral hygiene. (We all have our "things," and his is teeth.) So, even on the off-chance that one of our kids actually failed to brush before bed, we’re not buying it. Baby teeth fall out anyway.
“I Need To Check My Homework”
Once they start school, homework can become a nightmare. Not because there is a ton of it (at least, that wasn’t the case for us when our kids were in kindergarten), but because it’s something they just need to do. It can be such a contentious subject in some homes, and I decided that once my kids were in third grade, I was not going to hound them about getting homework done or making it perfect. They had to be responsible for it and, at that age, I felt that they were more than capable to start taking ownership of it. After all, I had already been successfully promoted from third grade.
However, when bedtime rolls around it’s like everything about homework they had pushed out of their minds comes flooding back. Too late. They had their chance. I don’t think that’s mean, because I've found that it works. They learn fast that if they care about getting it done, it has to get done before bed. Sleep is important and I’d rather they get their rest and get reprimanded by their teacher than stay up late and ruin the next day (and probably not retain much from the assignment anyway).
“I Still Have To Comb My Hair”
My daughter’s main goal for fourth grade is to grown her hair to her ankles. She is halfway there, so brushing her mane is a chore. So, I make her do it. The problem with that is she conveniently forgets to comb her hair after her nightly shower until it’s time for lights out. If she doesn’t get it done before she goes to sleep, she risks waking up to a snarled nest on her head, which then begins the painful process of attempting to untangle it (a process I'm usually in charge of).
“My [Insert Body Part] Hurts”
I’ve received complaints about feet, eyes, back, stomach, thumbs, throats, ears and, of course, butts. I don’t want to discount my child’s pain but I always ask them, “So, this just started hurting now, and not when we were having a tickle fight five minutes ago?”
“I Need A Band-Aid”
Funny how they spontaneously start bleeding at the stroke of bedtime. Usually it’s a mosquito bite they’ve scratched or a scab they've purposefully picked. I don’t deny them a bandage, but I throw a ton of side-eye their way while I’m taping them up.
“I Want To Stay Goodnight To My Brother”
Really? You’re moved to display affection now, of all times? How come the mood to do so doesn’t strike you during dinner or when you’re supposed to be teaming up on a creative project?
"I Think I Left My Backpack Open”
There are far worse offenses than that, my dear. Shoes strewn across the hallway. Dresser drawers pulled all the way out. Closets exploding out onto the floor. But sure, by all means, make sure your bag, which you drag, toss and otherwise beat up, is zipped up and tidy.
“I’m Afraid Of Robbers”
If my kids were ever scared of monsters under the bed, I don’t remember it. Lately, my 6-year-old has been plagued by the thought of burglars breaking into our home. I don’t discount his little kid fear because, hey, I'm worried about that, too. It’s a legitimate concern, since we recently moved to the first floor of an apartment building. Still, half of me is sure this is still a bedtime stalling tactic. My son wins this round though, because any fear he has is one I will listen to and try to dismantle.
“Can You Just Lie Here With Me For Like A Minute?”
I can’t say no to this. There is no defense in my arsenal of parenting tactics that is strong enough to withstand this request, which is usually asked in a tiny, forlorn voice accompanied by widened eyes peeking out from his comforter. We both know I’m going to say “yes,” and it’s going to be more than a minute because I will fall asleep before summoning up the will to step away from my child when he is in his most perfect state: unconsciousness.