Kids are master manipulators. I’m pretty sure something passes through their umbilical cord or something because they seem to emerge from the womb ready to play with our emotions and get us to do all kinds of wacky things against our better judgment.
Each child has their own tricks of the trade, and around our house, it’s bedtime. Because sweet Jesus in a Pack ‘n Play, bedtime is a freaking shitshow. Our kids are bedtime-stalling geniuses and have this art perfected down to a science.
Bedtime doesn’t start as a shitshow, of course. I think that’s part of their master plan, actually, because bedtime usually starts with my kids being sweet as apple pie. They play together without fighting. They snuggle and sing sweet songs. They tell my husband and I how much they love us. And we’re duped. Because before long, we’re looking at the clock, realizing that their bedtime has come and gone, but we’re intoxicated by their charm. Just a few more minutes, we say. Then it’s time for bed. Really.
Once we finally fall out from under their spell and realize that we’re the parents, dammit, we’re in charge, it’s too late. We’ve missed the sweet spot, and their inner overtired demon child begins to emerge. They bicker. They whine. They cry. They basically become intolerable little assholes (and I say that with love), and we can’t wait to clock out for the night.
We shoo them upstairs to brush their teeth, but they don’t move. They lie on the floor, ignoring us like the white noise that we are. We ask them again. Nothing. We say it louder and louder and LOUDER until OMG, we’re yelling and why are we yelling when everything was just so lovely, but now you really have to BRUSH YOUR FREAKING TEETH and go to bed.
The kids start to walk to the bathroom, slooooowly, but get distracted on the way. They forgot about a permission slip that needs to be signed for school tomorrow. They need to check the weather so they know what to wear to school. They ask urgent questions like “What color is thunder?” and “Do you think dogs can read our minds?” The other night, I looked away for a minute and found my son making homemade salsa in the kitchen after I had already told him it was time to brush his teeth. #TrueStory
We’re worn-out and know the path of least resistance is the best option once the chaos has started. So we answer their questions through gritted teeth. We sign their damn permission slip, and we check the motherfucking weather. We taste the homemade salsa. Now go brush your freaking teeth, we snap perhaps with a few F-bombs muttered under our breath.
Ten minutes later, teeth still aren’t brushed, there are buckets of Legos dumped all over the floor of their bedroom, and one child is running around the house naked because his underwear were itchy. We sigh and try not to lose our shit.
Once they are finally — finally! — bathed with teeth brushed and in bed, there are more questions and we say “last one” at least 13 times. Mama, do grasshoppers fly or jump? Can we have shrimp for dinner tomorrow night? What are we doing tomorrow and the next day and the day after that?
Oh, sweet child, I can’t think further ahead than my date with the couch and Netflix for the next 90 minutes, much less what we’re doing tomorrow and the next day, so stop asking and go the fuck to sleep.
There are hugs, kisses, and I-love-yous. Nearly an hour after this whole train wreck started, we’ve finally tucked the kids in and closed their bedroom door. My ass has barely settled into the couch when I hear a faint “Mo—om!” call from upstairs. It starts out soft and sweet, which is all part of the plan. I ignore it for a few minutes, but it gets louder and louder until I surrender with a huff.
More questions: What if there’s World War III? More requests: Can I have a glass of water? More tuck-ins: I love you. Kiss-kiss.
If this sounds at all familiar, then your kids, like mine, have officially reached Pro-Level Bedtime-Stalling status.
Twenty minutes later, I’m finally on the couch, remote in hand, and the house is quiet. But it’s too late, and I’m too damn tired. There will be no Netflix and chilling tonight. Hell, there won’t even be any Netflixing because we’re asleep within 10 minutes.
Kids: 1,578. Parents: 0.