Bedtime is the worst.
It involves so much cajoling and negotiating and adhering to a routine that only seems to grow more complex.
Such is the life of a parent with a preschooler.
Alma, our almost-four-year-old, is an amazing kid. Smart, funny, and WILLFUL as all hell.
(The universal mother was all, “Oh, you thought your first kid was willful? Hold my mead.“)
While I have no doubt this quality will serve her exceptionally well someday, it makes many of my days rather trying and leaves me longing for bedtime.
There’s very little time after dinner that doesn’t involve trying to steer her toward bed. We must get pajamas on (unless I can convince her to sleep in what she’s wearing), but she doesn’t want to pick them by herself, and she definitely doesn’t want me to choose them for her. I am basically supposed to keep her company in her room while she chooses, and inevitably wants pajamas that are in the laundry instead of clean and ready in her bottom drawer.
Then there must be “bedtime snack time.” (And yes, we just ate an hour ago.) Then teeth must be brushed and the PINK water bottle fetched and placed near the bed for last minute drink requests.
During all of this, I have to get myself ready for bed. I get into pajama bottoms and keep on whatever t-shirt I happen to be wearing. I take my blood sugar and calibrate my continuous glucose monitor. I take my nighttime supplements. I brush my teeth (or skip, because better me than her when it comes to that particular corner cutting). And I check in with Nora and make sure her homework got done and tell her what an amazing kid she is and kiss her goodnight.
Then Alma needs to say goodnight. Ben and Nora each get a hug and a kiss on the cheek and then — this is so adorable we can barely stand it — she takes each of their hands and kisses them one at a time.
Then she starts manically jumping on the bed.
My only hope of speeding up this process is the promise of a long story time if she just hurries up already. “If you finish up we’ll have time for LOTS of stories!”
Story time is the best.
We do at least two stories every night. Last night we did ten. I’ve tried skipping story time as a natural consequence for bedtime pokiness, but it doesn’t feel right to either of us and always ends in tears.
No matter how tired I am, the minute she curls up next to me and we dive into the stack of books she’s picked, well, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
And, willful as she is, the stories are rarely read from one end to the other without lots of questions, comments, or flat out demands that I modify the story in some way to suit her.
She doesn’t want me to read the inciting incident in One Fine Day where the old woman cuts off the fox’s tail. (Who could blame her?)
She’s doesn’t want me to read the first little bit in The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza where the hen actually decides to make the pizza. (Maybe she wants it to be a surprise?)
She wants me to make up entirely new words to the ABC book. (This is just as well, as it isn’t actually a kids book at all, but V is for Vulnerable by Seth Godin that she pulled off my shelf and claimed as her own.)
And — my favorite modification — she doesn’t want to heed the bus driver in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus: “Let’s let him drive, mama!”
There’s always a big objection when reading time is over, but we usually extend it by turning out the light and listening to an Ivy & Bean audio book.
When I get the bedtime timing right, she’s drifting off to sleep just as Ivy and Bean are launching into mischief, around 7:30 p.m.
Then my private story time begins. I switch the audio book to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Becoming by Michelle Obama, or, if the day has been especially trying, anything by the buddhist nun Pema Chödrön.
Then I lose myself in a story and eventually drift off to join Alma in dreamland.