The Three C’s of Bedtime SuCCess!

I was recently talking with other parents about a pain we all well know: that of convincing young children their day has ended, their bodies need sleep, and their beds are the place to do it. Such a tough sell.

I once described bedtime as “my life’s hardest job, every single day.” I stand by that, especially with a child who is two, or three, or four.  Sometimes five or six.  (Maybe older, too, though now I am just speculating).

Bedtime

I have read books that infuse humor (like this), read blogs that give a sense of comraderie and more good laughs (like this), and posted on social media in hopes of distracting myself from the misery that can be someone repeatedly calling your name while you hide in a dark closet. (No, I don’t do that. …Don’t you?)

But those books can only help so much, and mostly one must slog through. I started to notice, though, that some of the best bedtimes were–inexplicably–the ones that probably seemed to go most badly to the outside observer (oh, please let there be no outside bedtime observer). Yes: the nights when bedtime included a bit of (child) sobbing were often some of the easiest over all.

Whaaat??

For real. When bedtime went awry and my kids ended up crying, they were expending their final energy reserves. Using all they had. sleeping dorothyAnd once they calmed down, they fell insta-peaceful asleep like Dorothy in a poppy field. (When I first typed that, I wrote “poopy field” and almost left it. hehe).

Not one to waste DISCOVERING MAGIC, I now sometimes leverage this weakness in the system to speed things along. I have convinced myself we are all benefiting in the long run.

Step one: provoke crying

Sooo, sometimes when they are rightrightright on the edge of losing it–we all know that moment, when the adorable laughter and sillliness has an edge of insanity and the eye of the storm is passing–I throw caution to the wind and push them right over. In the most loving way. Like when the one favorite jammies are dirty, offer the most hated pair as an alternative, indicating that you’ll ‘probably do the laundry tomorrow.’ Or when a snack is demanded, respond with a long speech about healthy eating, the chance to consume proper nutrition at dinner, and that child’s woeful lack of nutritional performance that day, such that maybe they should lose the ability to have snacks tomorrow. You know, rational things that kids canNOT DEAL with.

Once they are crying, you walk away. You are mad. They have betrayed you and your logical parenting solutions. –But you’re actually FINE!! This crying doesn’t faze you–you created it. It is your tool. You expected it, and now you go read your book.

Let it go long enough that they are probably really sorry and absorbing a great lesson about rotating clothing or eating vegetables at dinner.

Step two: Provide comfort

They’re so distraught over the terrible pajamas–blue, two pieces, with pants, and Mickey Mouse at Christmas!?!–or the loss of tomorrow’s fruitsnacks that they need comfort. From anywhere.

You swoop in and they will accept your hugs and back rubs, even though you created this storm 90 seconds ago. Don’t overdo it, and avoid dialog. Just soothe, and smile peacefully, and imagine how hard it really must be to be three years old.

Step three: make a small concession

While you are comforting and the crying has turned to whimpers, close the deal. Maybe would your child like to sleep in their NUMBER TWO FAVORITE pajamas while you start a load of laundry RIGHT NOW? You could help them change! Would they like a healthy-but-tasty bowl of carrots and a glass of ice water? carrotsAnd tomorrow they can help cook dinner so they can make sure it has something they LOVE?

In my experience, the right combination of concessions will get you pajama compliance, vegetable eating (or at least an end of food requests), a future dinner helper, and–MOST IMPORTANTLY–silence. The crying stops. The pj’s go on. They usually choose sleep over carrots.

And then, well, just count down from 100, bedtime warrior. Because you’re almost there. Just remember:

1: Crying
2: Comfort
3: Concession

The three C’s of successful bedtime. 

sleeping dog on back

Why Am I Always Tired?

I often find myself on the verge of falling asleep of late. Like, could-drift-off-at-any-time tired. I accidentally fell asleep while trying to perform child bedtime multiple times this week. I think I was asleep before the girls were; I cannot confirm what happened with them because I was asleep.

It seems notably bad when I am driving to work in the morning. I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of this, not only for obvious safety reasons, but also because they seem to really be patrolling that corridor by the Pentagon lately. Plus, MI has heightened sensitivity about the new car’s paint since the time–now more than several days ago–that (probably) me (unknowingly) scraped the front on something (maybe) while he was out-of-town.

  • At first I thought it was my body’s passive aggressive protest against the unnecessary traffic buildup on Rt. 27–caused by selfish people forcing a late merge from the right lane that we all know has to exit.
  • Then I wondered if it was my subconscious’ way of trying to avoid going to work during a dry administrative patch that was, in itself, rather sleep inducing. Shouldn’t one fall asleep in the morning on her own terms?
  • I worried that maybe waking up really early to run a few times a week with my workout buddy was the elephant-culprit in the room (though people who run when it is cold and early and dark and COLD should never have bad things happen to them. That and cheese are the main reasons I do it.)
  • One day I realized that even though I was only just driving in to work to “start the day,” I had–in fact–been awake for four hours. I’d run (see above), dressed three people (D2 can do it herself…), made breakfasts and lunches (cutting the crusts off of at least six pieces of bread), done laundry (which now must be done every day?), washed dishes, and braided D2’s hair like Elsa (often requiring two attempts, since I struggle to get it “long enough,” owing in large part to D2’s short hair). That sounds like a rather full morning and well deserving of a nap.
  • I mostly stopped drinking tea. All winter I found it soothing and warming and peacefully ritualistic. And kind of grownup. And easy hedging in case it really does perform anti-green tea cupinflammatory/weight-loss/brain-cell-development miracles.* So I started drinking green tea. And it was so fun to be warm and grown-up and maybe developing my brain that I started drinking more. And more. Until my doctor suggested that 10 cups a day of green tea might be why I have to go to the bathroom so incredibly often, and I should cut back. I replaced it with dark chocolate, which has similar health benefits without the peeing side effect, but still feel a bit short on caffeine.
  • The morning commute is D2’s turn to pick the music and she likes a relatively small number
    princess_cadence_evil
    Evil Princess Cadence: my alter ego and assigned part in the song.

    of songs. Songs like Let it Go from Frozen and This Day from My Little Pony and Roll Up the Map from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. And we listen to them over and over. And they’re all completely awesome songs–she has great taste across the board–so I have to keep singing them really loud. The whole way. It can get *exhausting.*

  • The only time I have to myself or to talk to MI or to get anything done is after the children go to bed, so if I am not falling asleep at 8:15 while “reading,” I am up until midnight. You’re welcome, Instagram friends, for the sacrifices I make to heart the pictures of your kids and restaurant dinners. Plus, online shopping is more interesting after I take out my contacts.

With so many options of what might be making me sleepy, I need an aggressive, methodological approach. So tonight, with the whole evening to myself, I read all of the catalogs I received this week in the mail, looked at RunnersWorld while half-heartedly watching Ellen, checked out some old photos of acquaintances on Facebook, and then binge-watched several episodes of a new show on Netflix. Nothing has come to me yet, but I am going to keep trying to figure it out.

My working hypothesis is that I am always tired because Germany (<–click link for best TV commercial ever).

SONY DSC

Off to bed.  I’ll be back on the case tomorrow.  😉


*Check out an article on the 10 Proven Benefits of Green Tea. It is “proven” that it “may” help. It also “may” start managing all of your bills, scrubbing down the shower, and taking you out to pizza every other weekend. Results vary by individual.

Six little whiles more than usual

When your kids start repeating back phrases, you realize what you must sound like to them. Sometimes it is awesome: Ella’s first word was “HEY!” D2 tells me she loves me “so, so, so much.” But sometimes, you realize you say some things so often they have become meaningless. Apparently one of mine is “a little while.” As in, “I’ll be there in” and “I’ll only do it for” and “it will only take.” When my daughters, who seem to have inherited the nervousness and trouble falling asleep that I had as a child, ask if I will stay upstairs by their room until they fall asleep, I respond that I will stay “for a little while.”

So, it wasn’t too long until Ella figured out that my little whiles were sometimes not long at all. And she starting asking for multiple little whiles. (Adorable.) Last night, she asked me to please stay upstairs “six little whiles more than usual.” And reminded me that the last time she’d asked that, it didn’t actually seem any longer. So please could I try harder? Sure–I decided to read in my bed for 20 minutes while they fell right to sleep. I had several books and magazines to choose from and they seemed tired. Probably they’d be out before that.

I propped up both of the fluffy pillows on my side, since MI was gone and I could hoard, and started reading the newest edition of Cooking Light. I generally love this magazine. But right after you finish feeding two children an imaginative dinner of tortellini and sliced apples–one of the four meals they will eat–and wrestle them slowly into their beds, its hard to completely immerse yourself in planning future meals that they won’t eat and will create more dishes than normal. So despite my good intention (and desire to have someone else cook such dishes for me) my interest waned. I decided to read it laying on my side. And then I set the magazine on the bed and read it with my cheek against the pillow.  And then… then… it was midnight?

Apparently I drifted off–who could have seen that coming!?–around 8:30 on Friday night. Both children were still awake, probably. Who knows?  And MI was gone. Don’t worry about safety, though; Ella is getting pretty responsible and it is not often, anymore, that she does something that I think could have easily killed her. She had things under control until MI came home. Whenever that was. I hear that Ella was still awake and she went downstairs and they played and hung out and had a snack. And they came upstairs and turned off my light and built some IKEA furniture to dance music and hours passed.

So, suffice it to say, I totally delivered on my six little whiles more than usual. I kept my word.  Parenting for the win.