I have mixed feelings about bedtime. As the hours wane, and the earth dips closer towards the moonlight sky (and must-see primetime TV) I start thinking of throwing on my soft, cozy robe and cuddling up on the couch for some much-needed "me" time. But first I have to get through the whole "kids to bed" scenario, which will likely catapult my blood pressure (however temporarily). Knowing all the things my toddler is thinking as bedtime approaches, it's hard to stay positive when all I want is a little quiet. The trick is to always be one step ahead of the toddler game, or risk being overthrown in your own castle. Sadly, I know this firsthand and though I've survived many wasted hours attempting to get everyone to bed on time, it's not without its fails.
Our firstborn, who is now ten, taught my partner and I a lot about sleep training. We learned how to swaddle, how to create and stick to a solid routine, and how to deal with some of the things that might go wrong (colic, anyone?) when all we wanted was a sold night's sleep. Looking back, we had it pretty good. Things were great, actually. Sleep was happening at regular intervals and it was glorious. Enter child number two. It was apparent during pregnancy that my children were going to be different, so trying to sleep train this boy — who battled severe enough GI issues he couldn't keep any food down — had my partner and I straight-up forgetting what sleep even felt like. Thankfully, when he entered those toddler years we could just say,"Go to sleep now," and he'd listen.
However, the thing about toddlers is that no matter how well they might sleep through the night, they're masters at holding out for as long as humanly possible. I get it. I'm just too cool to leave, even for a little shut-eye, but come on already. We've nicknamed our son "The Time Bandit" because he's so good at wasting those precious minutes directly before nap and bedtimes. While it gets under my skin, I know (I hope) it, too, will pass and someday we'll look back on these days and think, "It wasn't that bad." Someday.
With all that, here are a few thoughts your toddler might be thinking as bedtime nears and he or she is attempting to delay the inevitable. They're clever little nuggets (and they obviously got it from their momma).
"If I Pretend I Can't Hear, It Won't Be Time To Go"
Even with a devoted bedtime routine, there's nothing worse than saying (read: shouting) "Time is up!" only to have the kids conveniently not hear me the first, second, or fifth time. In the history of my parenting, pretending not to hear me does nothing but light a fire under me, therefore getting you, dear toddler, to bed even faster. Check. And. Mate.
"I'll Just Go Limp"
Ever go to help your little one to their room and they just fall into a limp pile on the floor? This happens a lot around here and, while I appreciate the dramatics, I actually want to thank my kids for helping me build such strong arms. Carrying their protesting bodies up the stairs and to their beds has done wonders for my upper body strength.
"I'll Pretend I'm Thirsty..."
I know this game well. First of all, we're potty training so the water situation should have been dealt with earlier in the evening. If the kids is really thirsty and it absolutely cannot wait (because I've been there, too), I usually play the "I'm counting to 10" game and see if he can beat the clock.
"...Or That I Have To Go To The Bathroom"
I also know this feeling so, while I realize it's a stall tactic, I can't say no to getting it all out so we don't have an accident in bed. I do draw the line at being forced to sing the potty song (for a third time) while this is happening.
"I Forgot That One Really Important Thing"
When my daughter was a 3-year-old toddler, she lost her favorite bear in a Walmart and was traumatized. Now my son has the same attachment with his blue blanket and a stuffed puppy. If one is missing or not in the correct spot on his bed, we have to start the routine all over again. Sometimes, though, I've found him hiding these things to delay bedtime. Who's the sucker now? (me)
"But I Need Medicine Now"
This past week, my daughter has waited until we've all made our way upstairs for the nightly tuck-in to say her head hurts. She wants medicine and a cold compress. The first couple nights, I felt for her and did the mom thing. Recently, however, I've realized it's just another way to waste time.
Tonight I'll be proactive in having all this at her bedside. I'm on to you, sister.
"I'll Ask For A Monster Check..."
There are bound to be times your little one is scared of something in his or her room. Hell, there's still times I'm scared of something in my room. One quick check is good and makes them feel safe, but if you find yourself doing it again and again or longer than an episode of Modern Family, you've been had.
"...And Then Get Up To Ask What That Noise Was"
The sound of the heat coming on, me going to the bathroom, the wind — these all can cause my youngest to get back out of bed to be sure everything's cool. Not because he's scared, necessarily, but because I might be having too much fun without him.
"One More Story, Please?"
We typically read a book and then tell a quick story, usually something about superheroes saving the town or something. Then, without exception, it's off to bed. At times, my son will ask for another story and while I'm eying the clock as the minutes pass by, it really is hard to look into those big, baby blues and deny him. I'm a softie, and he knows it.
Toddlers are wicked smart. They usually know our next moves before we do, so it takes some extra planning and scheming to stay ahead of the game. It's hard to remember now, but these moments will pass and someday, they won't need me to tuck them in at all. So as much of a pain as it is at times, I try to remind myself that one day I'll miss these moments. No really, I will.
For now, as bedtime approaches, and you're ready for your TV lineup or whatever it is that calms you at the end of a long day, take my advice: set the DVR. Just in case.