“Domino, it’s bedtime”
“Just five more minutes?”
“No, you’ve already had five minutes. It’s bed time now.”
“Noooooooooooooooo. I ate you.” (Yes, the ‘h’ is dropped)
“I ate you so much.”
“Who are you? And what have you done with my angelic little girl?” I think to myself.
This is what happens when your child turns five. Suddenly, bed time becomes war time.
Domino is now lying on the floor crying pathetically and flailing her legs around. She is my fifth child, and therefore I merely step over her and go upstairs, as though she doesn’t even exist.
Now, I wouldn’t have dreamt of letting child number one lie on the floor. What if they caught something? What if someone saw? What if the tears were actually real, and they had some psychological scarring later, with years of expensive therapy to repair the damage? “Okkkaaaay sweetie, just five more minutes,” I would say to child number one. And then I would learn that five more was never really five more—further negotiations only ensued, and with no UN peacekeeper insight.
Between child number one and child number two, bribery makes an entrance: “If you just let Mummy put you to bed then tomorrow we can get ice cream.” But even as you are saying the words you know that you have fallen off the good parenting path. You know this is forbidden, you know you must never confess to anyone that you bribed your child with ice cream so they would go to bed.
By child number three there is no time for negotiations. After all, it’s no longer one child you are putting to bed but three, and that could really take all night.
So you try different methods. Encouragement at first: “If you just come to bed now….” followed by threats: “You won’t get to watch Sponge Bob tomorrow,” and finally, when the body on the floor has not budged, anger: “Now I am really beginning to lose my temper”
By child number five you don’t even bother with bribery. Because you’re so darn tired you’re happy if they fall asleep right there on the floor.
I don’t have any concrete answers to the bed time question, but the two teeny bits of advice I would offer after 16 years of putting children to bed is to make sure you leave a lot of time to do it, and to make the bed as inviting as possible. That way, even if they “ate” you whilst you tuck them up, you’re tucking them up into something lovely.
Photo by Brittan Goetz