Saturday, July 07, 2007

Waiter, some more monsters in the closet please?

I once determined that dressing a small child is like putting socks on a moving ceiling fan. Be that as it may, putting two small children to bed is like trying to walk a tightrope. One false step and you're flat on your back, staring at the ceiling, wishing someone would just come and put an end to your misery.

It usually starts innocently enough. "Five minutes 'til bedtime" comes the proclamation. After this initial announcement, brief series of events are scheduled to occur:

-Clean up the toys
-Go upstairs
-Change clothes
-Come down for snack
-Read a couple books
-Head upstairs
-brush teeth, pee, wash up
-Nighty night
-Mom and dad get some "us" time.

Believe it or not, things don't always go as planned.

Sure, we start off on the right foot. But more often than not, the tightrope starts to wobble somewhere between agenda items #1, and #2, and by Item #4 we're tangled up in the net far below. Let's take a walk, shall we?

First, there's agenda item #1, the cleaning of the toys. This simply doesn't happen. The conniving little varmints have already learned how to scheme their way out of cleanup duty, usually by stirring up a ruckus. "She hit me! She poked me in the eye! Waah! Get upstairs, you!" So let's move to #2.

Going upstairs can be surprisingly challenging. Often I have this bright idea of yelling, "last one upstairs is a rotten egg!" This starts off great, because the kids hit the steps running. However usually by the third stair tread either someone trips, pushes, or gets upset at being deemed the rancid poultry. If in fact they DO make it successfully up the stairs, dad becomes the rotten egg and a ten-minute giggle fest ensues.

Let's touch on snack time next. Typically it starts like this. "What do you guys want for snack? (no answer). What do you want for snack?? (no answer). Snack? anyone? Kitchen closes in thirty seconds!!!"


"We don't have grapes."

"But I WANT grapes!"

"We don't have grapes. How about strawberries?"


"Once again, we have no grapes. If you can find grapes, you may eat them."

"Really?? Yay, grapes! Wait, ACTUALLY, I want strawberries."

My wife and I could wash, trim, and cut an entire bushel of strawberries - nay, an entire truckload of strawberries, and no matter how many were placed in front of those kids it would be two strawberries short of needing a second helping. "Can I PLEASE....have more strawberries???" So, one of us gets up, washes, cuts, and arranges a nice second helping of strawberries only to find out that while we were in the kitchen hunger passed, and it was on to things, like the discovery of the dried up piece of Play-Doh found under the kitchen chair that makes a great bouncy ball.

Let's skip ahead a few chapters, to the bathroom ritual. Each night, the statement, "okay, go brush your teeth" seems to have an alternate meaning. what it really means is, "yay, I get to stand in front of the sink, stare at myself in the mirror, and imagine myself as the beautiful princess that I am, swept away by Prince Eric, to a land that's pure and white, with happy little animals and colorful flowers, and friendly flying dragons that breathe fluffy white clouds for me to lay upon, and...

Sorry. Got carried away there.

Anyways, the bathroom ritual is my least favorite part of the evening. If it's not the escape to dreamland, it's the aftermath. I'm curious to know when a child first realizes that spitting out toothpaste in a downward angle, TOWARD the sink, is far more effective than, say, spitting in the general direction of the tub? OR that a towel can often dry hands just as well even if it doesn't have a picture of a princess on it. Or that the proper method of cleaning toothpaste spooge off the mirror is NOT to lick your hands then rub the mirror with them. When the kids finally head off to college, I'm calling the CDC and having them quarantine the bathroom and study it for the existence of a new virus.

From start to finish, we typically expect the bedtime process to take about ten minutes. The reality is that more often than not, two hours is gone before the final goodnight. And mind you, the final goodnight is never the first goodnight. Shut the lights and leave the room, and suddenly it's as if the kids are at a fine restaurant that serves only parental annoyances. "Yes, I think tonight I'll have the scary shadow, with a side of noises outside the window. What's that? You're out of scary noises? Well, perhaps the chef can whip up a nice bad dream from that movie we saw earlier, with a side of another book please? And for dessert, perhaps a slice of can I sleep in your bed? Wonderful, thank you."

Check please.

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