The challenge of getting the kids to bed is comparable to putting a jigsaw puzzle together. With your tongue. It takes practice, patience and lots of drinks of water along the way.
There’s something in a child’s brain that releases endorphins upon hearing the word “Bedtime.” They would rather swing from the curtain rod and finger paint with the toothpaste than put on their pajamas and brush their teeth.
Every night, around 8, I announce that it’s time to get ready for bed. Which loosely translated, means “Let the whining begin.” It starts with, “Aww, Mom. Just 10 more minutes.” And for the third night in a row, I give in. But just this once. At 8:10, the announcement is made again, and the five-year-old will insist that she can’t sleep without a bedtime story. I suggest Goodnight Moon, but the kids insist on something more along the lines of Gone with the Wind. They settled for Snow White, but only if I did my impression of the wicked queen. Even after I declare “The End” and close the book, everyone is wide-awake. Everyone, but me. I’m red-eyed and grumpy and can do the wicked queen’s voice without even trying.
An hour later, a variety of unidentified sounds drifted from my sons’ room, followed by a chorus of giggles and snorts. As I stomped down the hall to investigate, I heard them diving into their beds, laughing uncontrollably. I did an about face and walked back to the living room. I’ve been playing the parenting game long enough to know that that if a 10-year-old boy thinks it’s funny, I don’t want to know about it.
Within 20 minutes, the kids will be in and out of bed at least 10 times, the cat will end up wearing doll clothes and at 9:45 a child will wander into the living room to announce, “My teacher wants me to bring cupcakes for our bake sale tomorrow.” I rolled my eyes and looked toward heaven. My son knew I wasn’t thanking God for the Wal-Mart bakery, and he sprinted from the room.
Just when I thought peace had settled over my home for the night, the youngest shouted, “Mommy, I’m thirsty. I need a drink of water.”
“No drinks at bedtime,” I shouted back.
“My throat is tickly and I need a drink real bad. Pleeeease!” After five minutes of whining, her siblings tired of the noise and a drink was delivered — via the big sister.
Finally. The house was quiet, and I collapsed into a chair with a book. I hoped to make it to the end of chapter one before nodding off. Halfway into page six, I was interrupted by a small voice. “Mommy? I think you should come downstairs and yell at Sissy.”
“Why would I yell at her? She’s asleep.”
“But she’s the one who gave me a drink after you said no. So it’s all her fault that I peed in my bed.”
By the time the sheets came out of the dryer, it was midnight and Betsy Wetsy was asleep on the couch. The dog was in my chair, surrounded by the chewed remains of my book. I was too tired to read, anyway, so I shut off the light and shuffled down the hall to put myself to bed.
As I drifted off, I felt a tickle in my throat. I opened my eyes and thought to myself, “I’m thirsty and I need a drink of water.”
— Ann Morrow
Ann Morrow is a writer and humorist from South Dakota. She has four children and is legal guardian to three dogs, two cats and one husband. Her work has appeared in five Chicken Soup for the Soul books.