Finding the humor in bedtime negotiations

with girlsAnyone who has ever said that bedtime should not involve a negotiation has clearly never tried to put a four or two year-old to bed. I always imagined bedtime with my kids would be a serene time when we would reflect on our days, read books and sing songs… and then they’d drift peacefully to sleep. But then reality set in.

Truth be told, evenings in our house can be chaotic. Because my husband and I both work, our nights are a jumbled mess of picking up the kids from daycare, scrambling to make dinner while Peppa Pig keeps the kids entertained, and playing for a few minutes before we eat together as a family and start the delicate (or clunky) bedtime dance.

No matter how successfully the dance goes, though, the stalling that begins soon thereafter is an entirely different story. Last night was one of those nights. Actually, most nights are “one of those nights.” Between our two year-old learning that “no” is her favorite, and a somewhat effective, word, and our four year-old getting out of bed every five minutes or so in hopes that one of her many excuses would stick, bedtime has become a comedy routine.

Here’s how last night’s litany of excuses shook out (each with a five minute interval in between where our four year old went back to bed, presumably to think of her next attempt at delaying bedtime)… and my internal dialogue at each twist and turn:

I need a hug. (How can I resist that?)
I’m lonely. (Alright, one more snuggle.)
I heard something outside. (There’s nothing outside.)
There’s a bear in my room. (There’s not.)
There are two bears in my room. (We don’t live in the forest. There are no bears in our house.)
I just feel sad. (She’s tugging at the heart strings again.)
I want a hug. (Fine, last one.)
I need a Band-Aid for this boo-boo I got two weeks ago. (See my previous post about the healing power of Band-Aids.)
Not the Dora Band-Aid! The Doc McStuffins Band-Aid! (Ugh, whatever works.)
This Band-Aid is hurting me. (Okay, so take it off!)
I need a tissue for my boogers. (Done.)
I need more baby dolls in my bed. (Any more baby dolls and we’d be running an orphanage.)
Ten babies will make me feel not lonely anymore. With only five babies I still feel lonely. (Ah, rational thinking by a four year old.)
It’s hot in here so I took my blanket off. (Okay.)
It’s cold in here. Will you put my blanket on? (Ugh. Okay.)
I need to go pee. (So go!)
I need to go poop. (Okay, now I have to come wipe your tushy.)
I have to take off all my clothes while I poop. (Again, there’s that rational thinking.)
I need help putting my clothes back on. (Of course you do.)
I need my blanket on. (Right.)
Not that blanket! The other blanket. (And one more time with the rational thought.)

And so it goes. We negotiate back and forth – sometimes giving in, sometimes staying strong, and always just trying to get to the end result of her tiring herself out enough to fall asleep. I’m sure someone is reading this thinking “stop giving in to her!” Clearly, you’ve never met my strong willed daughter who will not let up. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Now, when I get particularly frustrated with her and become a mom I like less (the one who has lost all her patience and is flabbergasted by the ridiculousness of it all), I try to remind myself that this is actually precious time where my daughter is stalling because she wants my attention and my snuggles. In the blink of an eye, these negotiations will stop being about getting back in bed and putting a blanket on, but will instead be about whether she can borrow the car to stay out past curfew or have another $20 for some material object that everyone else has.

So I put my foot down now but also give in slightly. I figure for now I’ll give her that hug, I’ll tuck her back in and I’ll make her feel safe so that in the future, when she doesn’t want to be hugged or tucked in, she’ll still feel safe and assured knowing that she is loved and that we are there for her. And hopefully, no matter how old she gets, the negotiations will keep us laughing.

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