three ring bedtime


I hate bedtime.

You don’t.  I know.  You have children that tiptoe off to their rooms, put on their pajamas and kiss you goodnight the moment you quietly suggest that it is time for bed.  I hate you.

Or, you don’t have children and when you want to go to bed, you wrap yourself between the sheets and slumber overtakes you. Quickly. Quietly.  I don’t like you very much either.

I used to love bedtime.  It crept closer; I grew giddy.  The nearer it was, the sooner my house was quiet for twelve hours.  Yep.  They used to do that, way back when – remember that?  You didn’t like me very much then.

Now, the hour before bedtime is a circus show.  There are dances, acrobatics, water shows, comedy routines, lines for snack and drink, a ringleader and some clowns.  I have never taken my kids to the circus for a reason; I am not a big fan of the loud, three-ring show.

Yet, between 7-8 p.m., I live in one.

Last night’s show included an act where the clowns (so sorry, I mean my girls-) defined words and I learned that bedtime means “zone out on mommy.”  For the record, they do a superb job of zoning out.  Awesome.  Award winning.

I spend an hour cooking so that we can all eat together.  We sit down (after ten minutes of arguing over seating arrangements during which time at least one daughter is writhing on the floor because not everyone can sit next to Daddy -um, guys, he isn’t here – could you at least fight over who gets to sit next to me??).  We eat with our fingers.  We try to use utensils.   We talk.  We practice taking turns and not interrupting. We scream and interrupt.  I ask for help clearing the table and then, I am forced to say it, the two little words that turn my house upside down.

“It’s bedtime.”

Gone.  They literally disappear.  They come back one at a time , sometimes in clown costumes, to ask questions that have nothing to do with our bedtime rituals.  I have taken a lot of time to cultivate our nighttime traditions.  I believed the brilliant parenting guru who wrote about how these rituals were so important.  I mandated consistency.  I moved through it every night for many years.  But now, master parenting guru, where are you?  It isn’t working.  Hello??  Haven’t you heard me?  I ask over and over for help.  I beg for you to send me some insight, some inspiration – hell, I’d even read another book if it promised me the honeyed bedtime of my past.

Instead, I pour my wine after dinner and sip on it during the hour that I argue over clothes, baths, packing book bags, brushing teeth, putting toys away, etc. I hate it.  It is circus hell.

But tonight, on this blessed first night of daylight savings I had a thought – a walk.  It was still light out so I gambled with taking everyone outside together after dinner.  We hooked up the dogs and strolled cheerily down the street.  If I walked them after dinner (like puppies, no?) and pushed the bedtime envelope with fresh air, I believed that I could change the outcome.  I hoped that I would push them up to the very brink of their exhaustion so that I could suggest pajamas and a book upon our return and not have to argue.

I was (am?) seemingly delusional – that’s nothing I haven’t heard before.  But, sometimes delusional folks like myself are right.

Ha.  It worked.

We strolled for about twenty-five minutes.  We let the dogs smell everything.  Fia and Abbey manned the leashes which was exhilarating for them.  Evie rode her bike and pretended to be racing.  No one fought, cried or argued (although I  vaguely recall that Abbey shook someone at one point but was too tired to involve myself so I kept walking).

We came home as the sky went black and transitioned into bedtime easily.  PJ’s and teeth were done.  Clothing choice was postponed to the morning because they were too tired.  All three darlings were curled up on the couch waiting for me to read before I’d even thought about repeating a request.

Yeah, yeah, you’re right.  It is wildly coincidental and so the girls will likely become victims of a new experiment; guinea pigs in a sleep study that requires nightly walks after dinner.  After tonight’s success, I am looking forward to some extended time together in the green zone; laughing, talking and enjoying one another rather than fighting over how late they can stay up, how many more sips of water they can have and the general issues that accompany  “zoning” a parent out.

I am going to try to keep them in the zone.  I am going to try to stay in the zone.

We are going to transform bedtime without Benadryl.  I mean, really. That was so last year’s parenting; before I knew about zen and zones.

I do not need to use Benadryl.

At least – not yet.


5 Responses to “three ring bedtime”

  1. 1 Meg

    Fia mentioned today that you now walk after dinner every night. She sounded pretty happy about it. Maybe we’ll try that soon too!

  2. 2 Jennifer

    Hysterical! And I say that in a loving sympathetic I am with you in your struggle way. I do have been zoned out. I love how you capture the emotions.

  3. 3 Trevor

    Believe it or not, I miss the circus. At least the clowns belong to us and there is someting to be said for that. What is worse is dealing with the clowns that are not yours and they too control your life. There are too many clowns in my life. I only want my three precious little clowns. Bring on the Big Top!

  4. ahh – dessert request. yeah, i question the nerve too –

  5. 5 Michelle

    This is so comforting to read after my Monday night. Everything seemed to be fine until it was dinner time. So close to sitting down and enjoying a nice meal when Conner’s leg began to hurt so bad it crippled him. Then of course Luke needed an injury so we had to apply an icepack and bandaid AT THE TABLE to a random finger. So one hour and 45 minutes later (after reheating Conner’s dinner in the microwave 3 times) I finally clear the table. I then start screaming for them to take their shower/bath because it’s so late. Somehow they have the nerve to then ask me for dessert. I am so glad that dinner/bedtime is hell for other people too.

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