Daddy Talk: The Bermuda Triangle of Bedtime
I don’t understand why bedtime is so difficult. In my imagination, it should be easy. We go to bed, pretty much, every day, so my kids should be really good at it by now. Several books, websites, and doctors I’ve consulted tell me that the best way to get kids accustomed to going to bed is simply by establishing a routine. That way, there are no surprises, and they know what to expect. In the case of my kids, though, they know what to expect and want nothing to do with it.
On a typical night during the week, the Krason household starts moving toward bed at 7:30 p.m. I will announce, “It’s time to start getting ready for bed! Let’s go brush our teeth!” One child responds, “No!” One child starts complaining that he’s in the middle of doing X activity. And one child runs away never to be seen again.
If we are able to corral them successfully into the bathroom, the teeth-brushing itself really illustrates their personalities. Our five-year old is overly concerned that he may get a cavity if he doesn’t brush correctly, so he is diligent but a little too intense. He had a cavity one time and has never recovered from the shame. Our two-year old, every evening, acts like she’s never seen a toothbrush before, closes her mouth tightly, and then screams as we try to brush her teeth for her.
Our seven-year old provides the most interesting case. He has problems focusing on the toothbrushing for an entire two minutes, so he ends up standing in front of the mirror with the toothbrush hanging limply out of his mouth, or he hides from us just for kicks. Usually I find him quickly behind a door somewhere, but last week he really did trick me pretty well. I didn’t see where he went, so I walked to his room and loudly threatened to start reading a bedtime book without him. Suddenly, the beanbag chair just next to me rolled over, and he emerged from underneath (still with the toothbrush in his mouth), proclaiming something triumphant that I couldn’t understand (because he still had a toothbrush in his mouth).
After my wife and I reach our wits’ end, it’s time to read bedtime books. My boys’ favorite books are the ones that have no story whatsoever and are maddening to read—titles like All About Big Bugs, The Complete Guide to Minecraft, Versions 1-17, and An Exhaustive Encyclopedia of Pokemon Characters. By the time I get to Charmander, the “scientific” explanations of how he evolves into a different “type” and how he interacts with Bulbasaur and what happened one time to him and Ash in the forest with Team Rocket, I’ve just about put myself to sleep.
Our two-year old has much better choice in books, but she’s more difficult once she lies down in the bed. Namely, she surrounds herself with exactly nine different baby dolls, all of which have different names and temperaments and needs. God forbid Baby Jo loses a pacifier or Pink Baby is missing a bottle after we’ve tucked them in because we’ll have to disrupt the whole lot of them to find the absent accessory.
Even with both parents home, getting the kids to sleep is a harrowing event. At some point late in the evening, my wife and I stagger into the living room or kitchen looking like we just completed one of those “ultimate team challenge” races where you have to scoot up a wet telephone pole just after lifting a car fifty feet into the air with a chain on a crank. Our intentions are always to talk and maybe watch a TV show together, but we inevitably opt to go to bed ourselves, which we’re much better at doing than our kids.
Tim Krason sleeps in Clinton with his wife and three kids. They also have a cat and dog who need to be put to bed as well.