So you know those ads where you see the mom and the dad lovingly tuck their little cherubs in, and then they turn out the light and leave the room and the little cherub sighs happily, turns on their side and goes right off into dream-land as the parents look at each other in a satisfied way? Aaahh so sweet. So peaceful
So not how it goes in our house. A more typical scene:
This is how it goes:
- put them to bed lovingly,
- ask them why they are out of bed-in a loving way
- send them back to bed after they have had a snack
- ask them why they are out of bed-in a neutral way
- send them back to bed after they have had some water and pee'ed
- ask them why they are out of bed in an irritable way
- send them back to bed after repenting of the irritation long enough to kindly explain to them why they should not fear burglars/monsters/bugs/the act of sleep itself
- ask them why they are out of bed in an unmistakably exasperated way
- send them back to bed after telling them that the only thing they should really be afraid of is YOU.
- OR: they stay in bed but laugh and talk all the live long day believing that you cannot hear them even after you tell them repeatedly that YOU. CAN.HEAR. THEM and issue dire warnings making you seriously wonder if they are as smart as they are supposed to be.
Last year my husband went on a business trip in the Dead Of Winter. I'm not good at the Dead Of Winter. All of my reserves in terms of patience, tolerance and energy are very low to begin with because I have this strange need for sunlight . Anyway, throw in absent daddy, a plethora of Pre-Christmas activities and many feet of snow and it all gets a bit scary to think about. I decided that I simply could.not .be .dealing with the bedtime boomerang child syndrome and so I did me some thinking about what form of bribery it would take to make it stop so that my husband could return to all children in good health and a non-incarcerated wife. Whatever cluck all you like people, you and I both know that it always comes down to bribery. (I prefer to call it Rewards and Incentives). This is what I came up with. (Apologies to those who read about it last year, I just thought it should be an official works for me. Since it really did)
So: I put my kids to bed each clutching 2 of my business cards in their little mitts. Having something of mine to clutch seemed to be an additional comfort. Poor little urchins. Other kids get a teddy bear, mine, a piece of cardboard. They were told that each time they got out of bed, or had to be told to be quiet, they would lose a card. Loss of one card would mean they lost the privilege of hot chocolate with the story the next night, two would mean loss of the privilege of the actual story. Horrors! But! If they kept BOTH cards they would get an extra treat on top of keeping both the hot chocolate and the bedtime book. Imagine that! (I did not tell them what the extra treat was and changed it each night. I believe this part was key to my success. Sometimes it was extra marshmallows, others doing a fun project with me. It took some creativity but never much expense. And you can be creative when you have enough downtime and sleep. Small bribes, especially when they are mysterious work surprisingly well with this age group. (Another reason to love this age-group)
And it worked! Oh how well it did work. I got to put my kids to bed every single night without morphing into Monster Mommy by the 12th time I repeated doing so. It was simply mahvelous. And then daddy returned and in our joy and gladness we forgot about the cards because we are apparently masochists or just very stupid. And actually, for a while they forgot that they had to get up 54 times each night as they were somewhat in the habit of just staying there. But that of course did not last long.
No longer! I am resolving to start the Pre-Halloween Bedtime Business Card Edition as of tomorrow night. I hope to slowly wean them from this very bad horrible awful no good habit and do away with the bribery eventually. I do have really good kids in pretty much every other regard, I suppose this is the price to pay if I want to be an official card-carrying mother.
Bedtime Boomerang Babies no more! Hope this can save someone else from sticking a fork in their eye.