Our Nightly Bedtime Brawl

Ahhhh, bedtime. What every parent looks forward to and what every child makes it their life’s mission to avoid. “Not my child,” you say? Clearly, you have an infant. Just wait. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

The book Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach came out when Olivia was just a baby. While I laughed when I read it, I remember thinking, naively, This will never be my child. The child in this book is clearly a hellian. I will never pray for her to go to sleep because I miss her as soon as I shut the nursery door on her angelic little face. But now? I get it. Oh, do I get it.

It starts off easily enough. “Olivia, ready to go night night?”

“Night night,” she responds gleefully, running full tilt for the stairs. She playfully climbs the stairs, stopping every few steps to sit and pat the space next to her, “Sit mommy.” It’s sweet, really. And that’s about where the cooperation ends. I think she does it to screw with us, I really do. (“He he, I’m totally going to let them think this is going to be easy so they put down their guard and then WHAM! kick to the face during the diaper change!”)

Some nights, I swear it’s like she takes speed before bedtime and morphs into a little streaker. But, by far, the most difficult part about the bedtime routine is the brushing of the teeth. It’s a two person job. I don’t know how single parents do it. I assume their kids must have horrible teeth—or they are up for sainthood.

Our best attempt usually involves my husband laying over her on the changing table to hold down her flailing legs and arms while I try to hold her head still enough to get the toothbrush in, all the while both of us singing “Happy Birthday” or “Sesame Street” or the ABC’s at the top of our lungs like a couple of lunatics. There is the occasional cooperative brushing session, but these are few and far between—probably just often enough to keep our feeble hope alive. Most of the time, she looks like she’s acting out a scene from The Exorcist and saying “No mommy, no mommy, no mommy” over and over again.

And then there are the books. I actually love reading to Olivia, but one book is never enough before bedtime. And God help you if you accidentally grab a long one. (Don’t ever buy Strega Nona, by the way—longest book EVER. It’s deceiving because it’s a board book, so you think it will be appropriate, length-wise, for a toddler. You would be wrong.)

By the time we get through the whole bedtime routine, it’s been at least 20 or 30 minutes and our nerves are shot and practically begging for wine. But just as I pick up Olivia to deposit her in bed, she says “Love you, Mommy,” and plants a big wet one right on my lips before throwing her chubby little arms around my neck in a tight squeeze.

Shit. Of course she has to be all adorable and remind me exactly why half an hour of bedtime hell is so worth it. I’d probably go through a whole lot more just for that moment of sweetness. But then again, I can say that now because my daughter is still in her crib. I’ll let you know if I change my mind when we switch to a big girl bed and she figures out she can escape!



About mommachine

I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and colleague. And trying to balance all of those roles at once can be utterly exhausting. Being the Type A control freak that I am, I try to run my life like a well-oiled machine. But sometimes the wheels get a bit squeaky (or just fly off completely, let's be honest). I have to slow down (yeah right, I know), give the different parts of my life a little tune-up and get back on the road.

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