I have a secret I can never tell my kids. From the messiness of cleaning up after their baths to the battle over who gets to pick the pajamas to having to deal with my kids' crankiness, I f*cking hate bedtime, maybe even just as much as my kids do.
There are parents who have their sh*t together when it comes to bedtime. They set a schedule, develop a routine, and put their little angels to bed at the same time every night, so they have time to watch Netflix before going to bed. I admire these parents, because I am definitely not one of them.
It took me a while to accept that when it comes to bedtime, I’m just not good at sticking to routines. Setting rules for bedtime is usually useless, because my kids don’t listen to them and I’m not good at enforcing them. Instead, my husband and have instituted more of a loose time frame for bedtime, and we try to make sure they're in bed between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. But even that doesn't happen all the time.
After a long day at work, the moment I most look forward to is walking through the door and hearing my girls yell, “Mommy’s home!” Then we have dinner, and then I settle down and attempt to engage in some sort of educational activity with my 4-year-old. Then it’s bathtime, which is usually a good litmus test for whether bedtime will go smoothly or be a total sh*tshow.
If bathtime goes well, and the girls are listening and playing nicely with each other, bedtime will be an easy routine of putting on jammies, brushing teeth, reading a book and slipping into bed. But more often than not, bathtime does not go well. More often than not, the girls will have a surplus of energy and splash around and pretend not to hear me when I ask them to stop tossing toys in the water. When this happens, I know that bedtime will be an unmitigated disaster.
Bathtime is usually a good litmus test for whether bedtime will go smoothly or be a total sh*tshow.
The first step is getting the girls into pajamas, which is usually hell. They are very, very particular about what they want to wear to bed, and when they can’t wear the pajamas of their choice, they usually freak out about it. Eventually, I wised up and bought two sets each of their favorite Moana pajamas, just in case one of them is in the wash.
Tooth brushing and flossing is usually painless, because they both love brushing their teeth. But afterwards, there's another hurdle to clear: picking out a book to read before bedtime. I love reading with my girls, but for some reason, whenever they run to their rooms and return with three books each, they are usually the longest, most boring books ever. And because they know the books by heart, they know I can’t “accidentally” skip a page to make it go faster. By the time I'm done reading to them, I'm ready to have a meltdown of my own.
After storytime, I make the girls go to their own beds. My 2-year-old is pretty easy: usually, she just wants a hug and a kiss and for me to switch on the nightlight, and then we're good. My 4-year-old is a different story. Getting her to bed requires three to four prayers and an elaborate tucking-in process. Then she will get up about five seconds later to go to the bathroom. That usually takes some time, as she likes to sing on the toilet. From there, the tucking-in process starts all over again.
Honestly, the main reason why I really f*cking hate bedtime is because it's the only time of the day when I have the time to connect with and talk to my girls. The evenings are usually a rush of educational worksheets, paying bills, running errands or getting things ready for the next day. Bedtime is the only time I can be with them when they're calm and settled and winding down from their busy days, so it's frustrating that it's such an arduous process to put them to bed.
I hate that our evenings are so short on time, because during the work week, I haven’t seen my girls all day and I'm so excited to see them when I get home. On the weekends, however, we've figured out some bedtime hacks that work for us. On the weekends, I typically let them have a sleepover in our bedroom in their sleeping bags, just so we can all be close to each other. Sometimes I even let them co-sleep with us, which I absolutely love because it allows us to spend more quality time together.
I've tried to follow bedtime rules from books and parenting blogs. But it's hard to stick to a routine, especially when I come home late from work. Eventually, I found that once I stopped trying to implement a strict bedtime routine, the easier it was to put the kids to bed. But that doesn't mean bedtime is a totally pain-free process.
Bedtime is chaotic and frustrating, and my kids hate it almost as much as I do. But when it goes smoothly and the grumpiness and chaos dissipate and we can just be with each other, it's one of the best moments of my day.