The bedtime routine has taken on a sort of magical status in our house in that I dare not depart from it in fear that the kids would not go to sleep. However, I’m starting to wonder if it is as effective as I imagine. Herewith, a dramatisation of a typical evening in our house.
Mum: It’s bathtime!
4yo: Nooooooo! You need to have a picnic with me and then I need to tidy the picnic away!
Mum: Fine. Drinks imaginary drinks and pretends to eat plastic food. Finished! Now it’s bathtime.
4yo: I just need to tidy up the picnic. Very carefully proceeds to put all the plastic food in the plastic picnic basket. Then very … slowly … folds the tiny picnic blanket in a tiny square shape.
Mum: Ok NOW it’s bathtime.
4yo: But but but…
Mum: I will remove pasta from your reward jar! 4yo begins running up the stairs. Hey you, 1yo, it’s bathtime.
1yo: In manner of Churchill Dog Oh no no no no.
Mum picks up 1yo old and carries up stairs as 1yo arches back and impersonates a piece of timber.
Mum: 4yo, please sit on the toilet.
4yo: I’m too tired.
Mum: The sooner you go to the toilet, the sooner you can go to sleep. Pulls down 4yo pants and places him on toilet. Removes the rest of his clothes in anticipation of bathtime. Hey, 1yo, let’s get you ready for bathtime!
1yo: Oh no no no! 1yo runs away and hides in a corner. Mum picks him up and takes him to his changing mat while he once again impersonates a piece of wood. Removes clothes from 1yo and places him on his potty.
Mum: Hey, 4yo, are you done on the toilet?
4yo: singing whilst remaining on toilet Tomblibooooo Tombli Tombli boooooooo!
Mum: Runs bath. If you’re done on the toilet, you should get off the toilet!
1yo: cackles as he pushes toilet seat aggressively onto 4yo.
4yo: Oooow! Brother hurt my back!
Mum: THEN GET OFF THE TOILET. 4yo gets off the toilet. Now brush your teeth. 4yo brushes teeth and fed up mum wordlessly lifts him up and deposits him into the bath. Ok 1yo, now it’s your turn to brush your teeth.
1yo: Oh no no no no.
Mum picks up 1yo and places him on the stool by the sink. 4yo impersonates jelly and melts down onto the floor. Mum tries to pick up 1yo. 1yo returns to wood impersonation. Mum lays 1yo down on lap and forcibly brushes teeth, then places 1yo in the bath.
4yo: My brother is stealing all the bubbles! Aggressively moves all the bubbles to his side of the bath.
1yo: Screams because he has no f*cking bubbles
Mum: Pours water over both children’s heads. Washes hair and body whilst ignoring screams and protestations.
Mum: Time to get out of the bath!
1yo: Oh no no no no!
Mum: forcibly removes wood-like toddler from bath, dresses him and leaves him in his bedroom. Ok 4yo, it’s time for you to get out too.
4yo: But I just need to finish making this volcano. Mum watches while 4yo fills a cup with water and then covers it with a flannel.
Mum: Ok, now let’s get out. I’m going to count to three. 1 … 2 …
4yo: In mortal fear of reaching three, opens the drain of the bath and gets out. Runs into bedroom with towel and hides underneath it. I need to be a pillow!
Mum: Pretends to use towel-wrapped 4yo as a pillow (like every night) Wow, this pillow is sooo comfy. Ok now put on your pajamas.
No response. Mum picks up 4yo and applies his pajamas while he ignores her and attempts to build a bus stop out of Duplo bricks.
Right, now play in your room while I get your brother to sleep.
Mum reads stories to 1yo and actually enjoys this bit, with cuddles and giggles. Then she lets him drink a large quantity of water. Then she sings Twinkle Star and places him into bed with appropriate toys and dummy. Turns musical projection mobile on. Does secret prayer that this bedtime ritual will work tonight.
Mum: Night night, sleep tight, Mummy loves you, see you in the morning. Magical phrase must be repeated exactly the same each night.
Mum reads no less than 4 stories with 4yo while he offers continual non-stop explanation of all the illustrations. 4yo gets in bed and mum turns the Gro Clock on (VERY IMPORTANT).
Mum: Would you like a song tonight?
4yo: Yes but it has to be a NEW song that you haven’t sung before.
Mum: But I have already sung you all the songs I’ve ever known.
4yo: Fine, then just sing “Summer of ’69” again.
Mum: I got my first real six-string, bought it at the five and dime, played it ’til my fingers bled, was the summer of ’69! Mum continues to do her best Bryan Adams impersonation while 1yo starts crying in the other room. Okay, big boy, time for sleep. Kisses 4yo.
4yo: 4yo kisses Mum precisely 5 times on the cheek in return and then shouts, Weird!!!
Mum: Night night, sleep tight, mummy loves you, see you when your sun comes up. Runs next door and puts 1yo back in bed.
Mum goes downstairs, cleans up toys, does the washing up, puts a load of washing on, pours a drink and sits down to watch telly and/or blog. She hears a squeaking doorknob and crying. She runs upstairs and puts 1yo back in bed. Goes back downstairs, takes a drink.
4yo: shouting from his bed I NEED A POO!!
Mum: Shouting back from downstairs THEN JUST GO!!
4yo: Still on the toilet, singing Tomblibooo, tombli tombli boooooo!
1yo: Waaaaaa! Mummy mummy mummy!
Mum: runs upstairs. 4yo, please get off the toilet. Puts 1yo back in bed. 4yo is still on the toilet. Mum has to physically remove him from the toilet and assist with wiping and hand washing. Puts 4yo back into bed. Then puts 1yo back into bed again.
Mum goes downstairs and gets in a solid 10 minutes of blogging.
CRASH BANG! Mum runs upstairs. Toddler has removed all the clothes from his wardrobe and wedged a toy lightsaber behind the radiator. Mum tidies up, puts toddler back in bed, and goes downstairs.
4yo: Shouting from his bed again Mummmmyyyyy! My covers are all messed up.
Mum: runs upstairs, fixes 4yo’s slightly disarrayed covers. You know, you could fix these yourself.
4yo: I love you mummy.
Mum: I love you too now please please please go to sleep!
1yo: Waaaaaaa! Mum puts 1yo back into bed again.
All is finally quiet. At last, mum can do some writing, maybe watch Bake Off. She finishes her glass of wine and falls asleep drooling on the sofa.
What’s bedtime like in your house?