Bedtime Battle

Over the last few months our bedtime routine has slowly deteriorated into a frustrating hour of crowd control (yes, three kids qualifies as a crowd). There is yelling involved. And threats. Most of them empty because it is the end of the day and what can we take away at that point? Looking back, it pretty much started around the time Alexandra was born. The conspiracy theorist in me is pretty sure the kids have advanced strategic planning skills and they took advantage of our exhaustion and our unstable, compromised routine to take control of the evening hours. Perhaps I should be proud of their capability.

Here is what has been happening. Around the middle of dinnertime, the big sisters start to get wound up. The bathroom words creep into conversation and before we know it “pee” and “poop” are flying freely. That is phase one. Phase two involves Katherine climbing the bathroom door frame while we try to get her to brush teeth and Clara unrolling the toilet paper all over the bathroom floor. In phase three, both girls are running away from us, naked and soaking wet as we call out a mix of empty threats and pathetic bribes: “You’re using up your story time!” “Girls who put on their pjs will get two songs!” But they are beyond threats and bribes. That’s when the yelling starts. By the time we finally get them tucked in and quiet with lights out, we’re exhausted and grumpy.

We need to reestablish a bedtime routine that is calm and enjoyable. To get this back we’ve come up with a plan: separate and stagger. As soon as dinner is over one of us takes Katherine up to brush teeth, take bath, put on pjs, get into bed, read book, sing song, lights out. Clara stays downstairs to help clean up. Once Katherine is in bed, Clara comes up to brush teeth and take bath. But Clara gets her pjs, book, and song in our bedroom. Only when she is ready for sleep does she get into her bed. The lights are already out and Katherine is calm and hopefully drifting off. Two girls in bed. Quiet.

We’re still working out the kinks, for example, we haven’t quite figured out where Alexandra fits in. She needs to be bathed too. Does it happen after both big sisters are in bed? Or before? We’re not sure. But so far the new routine seems to be helping. The kids are much calmer and it doesn’t feel like a battle. We also get to enjoy time alone with each kid, which is probably what they need - and what we need. So maybe they weren’t conspiring against us. Maybe they aren’t a two-person tactical team. Maybe they were just trying to tell us it wasn’t working. And hopefully now it is.

The big sisters