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Bedtime Bedlam        

As we pass the hundredth hour of bedtime, I feel my already tenuous grip on sanity start to slip

It’s a shame that bedtime comes at the end of the day when you’ve got no energy left because it’s an activity that requires basically all the energy in the world.

I’m usually pretty calm for the first hundred hours of bedtime, even with all the last-minute drink/snack/forgotten homework requests, but as we pass the hundredth hour, I feel my already tenuous grip on sanity start to slip.

Finally, at some point they’re all in bed. Amazing!

But then something like this happens:

All is quiet.

Thirty minutes go by.

Half the kids are already sleeping.

We’re doing well.

All of a sudden I hear a bloodcurdling scream: “Mommy, come quick!”

I speed down the hall, because obviously my five-year-old is bleeding or has broken a limb and also I had better get to him before he wakes up the kids who are finally sleeping.

“What? What happened?”

My five-year-old looks up and says, “I know what I want to be when I grow up.”

I look at this child of mine, my heart still racing, and I wonder if it’s possible to encourage your offspring’s hopes and dreams while also telling them that we are absolutely not discussing future career options now.

Then there’s my six-year-old, who has a black belt in melodrama.

One night, approximately 17 hours after he was supposed to be asleep, he came staggering out of his room, doing his best to look unwell.

“I’m not feeling well. My belly hurts.”

I tried my hardest to look serious and concerned. “Really? Why do you think it hurts?”

He collapsed on the couch dramatically. “I think I need to play with Lego.”

I know it’s considered Bad Parenting to laugh out loud when your child complains of a physical ailment but I just couldn’t hold back, laughed my face off, and once again lost my nomination for Parent of The Year.

I’d like to remind you that this is the same child who asked if he could do a complicated craft project one evening. I told him that he’d be able to work on it as long as he promised to clean up before going to sleep.

Thirty minutes later he proudly showed me his finished project. After I oohed and ahhed over his masterpiece, I told him to clean up and head to bed.

“You want me to clean up? Now?!” His bottom lip started to tremble as his eyes filled with tears. “But I’m so tired! It’s past my bedtime! Look at my eyes, they’re almost closing! I can’t believe a mother won’t let her son go to bed when it’s already his bedtime and he just wants to sleep!”

Is it my fault that I laughed out loud again? Somebody put this kid on a stage somewhere.

Of course, that wasn’t as bad as the time my overtired seven-year-old was refusing to go to sleep.

Every time I sat down, he hollered for me at the top of his lungs, and each time I went in to him, he wanted to let me know that his blanket was twisted or that he needed a book to read.

The tenth time he called me, I sent my husband in, which — obviously — led to a complete meltdown. So I went back into his room and fixed whatever was bothering him with his pillow (which he apparently couldn’t allow his father to take care of) and then I explained that I’m not going to be coming in again.

“You’ve got to go to sleep. It’s so late and you’re so tired. You can’t keep calling me 100 times.”

At that point his tears miraculously dried up. “I didn’t call you 100 times,” he told me. “If I had called you 100 times, do you know how long that would take?”

Oh, because I’m the crazy irrational one here.

At least my eight-year-old is much more straightforward about his nighttime approach.


“Why are you still up? It’s ten thirty!”

“Well, part of me is very tired and wants to go to sleep,” he pauses, “but another part of me wants to be awake… and I chose the awake part! So can you bring a flashlight in here or something?”

“Are you kidding?” I flash my watch in his face. “No flashlight, it’s way past your bedtime! Just go to sleep.”

“Okay, but before you go, I was also thinking, you know what might be a good idea to save time tomorrow? If I took a shower right now and then I—”

“You cannot take a shower now! You can do nothing now except go to sleep!”

By the time all the kids are asleep, all you can do is hope your reservoir of patience gets replenished by tomorrow afternoon, which is when the kids who went to sleep so late the previous night are going to start to lose their minds due to their sleep deprivation.

By the time the next afternoon rolls around, you might want to have a plan in place. You can try mine:

My child: (opens his mouth to speak)

Me: “Hey, there, judging by your facial expression and time of day, it looks like you’re about to voice a complaint, kvetch about your life circumstances, or make an unreasonable demand. Unfortunately, the Mommy Mailbox for Crankiness is now full.

“As soon as there is any available space for additional grumbling and general discontent, you and your brothers will be the first to know. Until then, please locate your father and unburden yourself to him. There’s no need to respond to this message.”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 772)

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