I just read an article about the secret to well-behaved kids. Of course I read that article. Probably every mom that came across that news link read that article, hoping to attain the secret. Is it medication? Drugs? Regular beatings? A sugar-free diet? Private school? No. It’s a real letdown of a secret: a regular bedtime.
Are you kidding me?! My children (and yes, I know they probably aren’t the best example for this argument) go to bed at the same time every night. In an attempt to create a more harmonious household, I thought this year the kids should have a better bedtime routine; a la bedtime snacks at a set time, showers at a set time, tooth brushing at a set time, stories at a set time and bed at a set time. With the implementation of this difficult-to-live-by-at-the-end-of-the-day-because-I-have-no-more-patience-left schedule, bedtime is now my favorite time of day (after they are sleeping, of course)! I can’t stand when I (I mean the kids) miss a second of their sweet slumber. Not because of their bad behavior the next day, but because that is MY time. My time to paint my nails, watch hours of bad TV (and good TV, too, I’m an equal opportunity watcher), read, play laser tag with the cat, drink as many cups as I want of piping hot tea without the worry that someone will a) spill it on themselves or b) want to share . . . Seems I’m a bit of a loser. Huh. It makes up for the hours during the day when I’m picking up a dish of half-chewed grapes from beneath the table, a bag of Goldfish crackers from the bathroom (god, boys are so gross), countless pairs of dirty socks (and when did their cute toddler feet turn into man feet? I literally pinch the socks with the tips of my fingers and try not to touch too much of them with my bare skin), empty plastic cups from the yard, Band-Aid wrappers sprinkled from one room to another, candy corn smushed into the carpet, Pringles littering the garage floor, etc. They need their sleep to rejuvenate themselves, and I need their sleep to rejuvenate me from their daily and nightly shenanigans.
Case in point, yet again: last night, the little guy rolled on the floor for ten minutes, screaming and kicking because I wasn’t going to let him have the iPad right before bed. The cat got kicked (okay, accidentally, but still), the candle fell from the end table and the entire pile of folded laundry on the floor was knocked over. My fault for letting it sit there since eleven am.
Anyway, he is no stranger to the bedtime routine. Every night at 6:50 pm, I warn him that he has ten minutes until bed. “How many books, one or two?”
“A big milk or a little milk?”
“Big milk!” Big as in one inch of milk in the bottom of the glass. In my experience with multiple boys, one should not actually give a kid a literal "big milk" at bedtime. Unless they have an expensive mattress protector. One that actually works.
I even go as far as to employ a special parenting philosophy I read about a while back (1-2-3 Magic) – if you give a kid choices that you already agree to, they feel that they are in charge and the power struggle one may expect will actually vanish. It works, if you’re not me and use it correctly (meaning, say only the choices and nothing more. Don’t go on and on and on, warning and bickering and changing your mind like me).
Even though the choices went off without a hitch, he was still crying and fit throwing, begging for the iPad, which I knew would cause another fit when it was time to turn it off.
“Do you want to run up the stairs or walk up the stairs?” I asked, hoping to turn the night around.
“Okay, my choice. I choose that you walk up the stairs.” Again, a little tidbit from a book. When the kid doesn't make a choice, you make it for him.
“Poop up the stairs.”
Baaa! At what point can I give up? When can I have the hissy fit?! Is all this really necessary? Am I really expected to continue having a conversation with no one, essentially?
He was watching me with a defiant glint in his eye. His foot was inching toward the base of the coffee table – one good thrust and the glass top would be the glass bottom. “Poop.” One word and all I can think is: Is this what my life has become? Must I be the hostage negotiator, hoping to get the coffee table out in one piece?
“Walk. Up. The. Stairs.” I said, pointing. What a joke. How can one make a child walk? Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of experience with trying and have some shin bruises and dents in the walls to show for it.
In the end, as the youngest child is often the martyr, he was carried up the stairs, kicking and screaming and sobbing about his loss of reading time and unceremonious tuck-in. The elder two watched in disappointment, as well they should have. There is not a chance in heck of them getting away with anything on a grab and carry night. Sometimes you just gotta take matters into your own hands. Literally.
This bedtime/behavior study has me flummoxed. Are kids really better behaved with a regular bedtime? If so, mine should be pretty good. But . . . there’s always that trip to the store where two kids are physically fighting before we get inside, one runs off and hides in the racks, one is crying because they were counted down to no treat, one pushes the cart into my heels (three times in one trip. And not accidental.), and yet another feels the need to take the opportunity in public to tell me of all my shortcomings as a mother. There's aways the youngest locking his friends out of our house or the older two sneaking off to the neighbor's and playing Minecraft on a school night.
Bedtimes here are sacred, but certainly not the path to enlightenment and perfect kids. Sometimes I even think my kids would be better behaved in the mornings . . . while they are still asleep . . . so I wonder if I should allow them to stay up later?