March 17, 2011

Every night I think of all the things I am going to accomplish “after the kids are in bed”. The problem being that once all the kids are in bed they never seem to stay in bed.  Bedtime around our house resembles a game of Whac-A-Mole …. Just when you think you’ve got the last kid down and the first one “pops” up again.

We usually have the same bedtime routine every night: bath, snack, brush teeth, read stories, and goodnight kisses.  Once the last child is tucked safely in bed I breathe a sigh of relief and head downstairs ~ that’s when the circus begins. 

I’m not downstairs more than 5 minutes and I hear the little pitter-patter of tiny feet coming down the staircase. “Mom, I need  a drink of water” says Emma.  “I thought I already gave you a drink of water” I reply.  “You did.” She says, “but I drank it all and I’m still SO thirsty.” 

I go into the kitchen and get her another  drink of water.  “Now go to sleep or you’ll be tired in the morning” I sweetly tell her as I take her back upstairs, tuck her in bed and give her a kiss on the nose. “Sweet Dreams” I say as I head out the door. “Mom”, she calls before I even get to the staircase. “Yes, Emma”.  “Mom, I can’t sleep”.  “Emma, you haven’t even been in bed for 2 minutes.  Just close your eyes and try to relax or read a book and see if that helps.”

I get back downstairs and go into the laundry room to get the clothes out of the dryer (the same clothes that I have been “fluffing” 4 or 5 times because I don’t have time to take them out of the dryer and fold them).  As I am coming out of the laundry room with my arms filled with clean laundry and leaving a trail of stray socks behind me I about trip over a child standing in the doorway of the family room. “ETHAN !” I shout as even more laundry topples to the floor “what are you doing out of bed ?”  “Mom, I had a bad dream … I’m scared and I can’t go back to sleep.” 

I find this excuse particularly entertaining because I know he has not even been asleep and therefore would not have had the opportunity to have any dreams, good or bad.  “Ethan, you’re fine.” I assure him.  “Let’s go back up and I’ll rub your back for a minute to help you relax and go to sleep” 

I take back upstairs and find Emma is out of her bed again with markers  and paper out all over the floor and is drawing pictures of kitties and rainbows .  “Emma” I sternly say, “what are you doing?”  She smiles and says, “I had this idea for a picture so I needed to draw it tonight so I don’t forget” (Emma is our right-brained, free-spirited, creative child). 

So I tuck the twins both back into their beds, give them each a quick back rub and kiss them goodnight.  “Night, night …sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite !  Now, close your eyes and go to sleep”

As I’m leaving Emma and Ethan’s room I hear a crash in Drew and Caleb’s room so I open their door and see Caleb standing stark naked on top of his dresser and throwing trucks and books to the floor.  “Caleb Joshua ! Where are your pajamas ??”  I help him down off the dresser and we find his pajamas and he begrudgingly puts them back on. 

Drew is laughing uncontrollably at Caleb and so Emma and Ethan come in to see what all excitement is. By now, my patience has been used up and I have had more than enough for one evening. “Alright, that’s it! All of you need to get in your beds and stay there!”  It’s times like this that I wish I could use the threat of Santa Claus withholding presents all year long.

Thirty minutes later I assume all the kids are asleep because it’s quiet and I haven’t had any bandits escape from their bedrooms upstairs. I have just finished folding  the mountain of laundry on the couch and  I am contemplating watching an episode of one of my favorite TV shows, Parenthood, that I am like 3 episodes behind on (thank goodness for DVR’s). 

I had just gotten comfy on the couch with a Diet Coke and some Chips Ahoy ! cookies when Drew comes flying down the stairs (he loves to jump down from the fourth of fifth step up).  He seems surprised to see me and starts mumbling some excuse about needing to use the bathroom which I know is just a cover because we have a bathroom (2 actually) upstairs. 

“Drew, what is the real reason you are down here?” I ask.  “Well, ummm, I , ummm … I just needed to get some Wi-Fi for my Ipod so I could check out this video on YouTube and I couldn’t get a strong enough signal upstairs.”  I look at him and point to the stairs “Up those stairs young man. It is 11:00 at night and you need to get to bed!”  Drew counters back, “Well, actually it’s only 10:53.”  “Whatever !! I don’t care  – it’s close enough to 11:00 that you should be not only in bed, but asleep !” 

He slowly makes his way up the stairs trying not to lose the WiFi signal he has worked so hard to get.  “Drew ! Put the I-pod away ~ NOW !”  He finally goes upstairs and I follow him to make sure he puts the I-pod up and gets in bed.  I turn all the lights out and tell him, “I love you, but I REALLY need you to go to sleep !”

While I’m upstairs getting Drew settled in I hear Emma and Ethan’s door slowly open and Emma’s little head peek out, “Mom ?”.  I sigh and reply, “Yes, Emma. What is it now.”  She comes the rest of the way out and says, “Well, I drank all that water you gave me earlier and now I need to go the bathroom.”


4 Responses to “Wac-A-Mole”

  1. dorcas Says:

    I’m tired just reading all this… 🙂 You must be one strong mother 🙂

  2. The Debt Collector Says:

    Am I right in thinking that Emma and Ethan are the twins of the family ?

    If they are seven then they have reached the age of “reason” i.e. can rationalise (hold two thoughts at the same time and make a choice of those options).

    This little escapade seems to be an attention seeking exercise and the testing of boundaries. Out of interest, do they share the same bedroom?

    If they do share the same bedroom this is an ideal place for them to create their chaos as they can formulate plans together. From the picture they seem emotionally close, notwithstanding they are fraternal twins in anycase.

    I think the answer to the “I’m thirsty” excuse is to buy a bedside carafe for them both with different designs on the beaker and carafe, so there can be no argument “he/she pinched my water”.

    I would also suggest putting the beds on opposite sides of the room so there is a fair distance between them and a bedside table on the room side of the bed. That is to say the length of the bed is against the wall and the bedside table on the inside edge of board so that the table obscures the view of eachothers bed. To that end it partly breaks down the communication barrier

    With reference to the “collusion” issue, would it be to put them it to seperate rooms (if that is possible as I know that you have a son with special needs and probably requires his own “space”). Otherwise the only option you have is the one mentioned above.

    There are two other reasons why children do not sleep easily:
    1.They are not acutally tired enough yet to go to
    2.Particularly now that we are moving in to Spring
    and Summer with light mornings and evenings not
    becomming dark until 21:00 onwards they feel that
    they are being “short-changed” regarding play time
    and that you have put them to bed early.

    Even if they can tell the time and have a concept of time they will still use the “its still light so it can’t be time to go to bed” excuse. They certainly do not seem to be the types to be frightend of the dark as some smaller children are, otherwise they would not be running around so much.

    If they use the light excuse, then hang heavier, full length curtains in the room so it appears a lot darker, and leave the door ajar to reduce the light entering the room, with a table lamp away from the beds with a low wattage bulb (sometimes known as a slumber light (8-10W))

    This means that they can’t complain that they can’t see anything and frightend of the dark; nor be able to see their way to the bathroom/toilet.

    Another technique I have used, albeit not with twins or two children sharing a room; and that is the “tucking up system”.

    This works on a system of slowing down the day towards bed time. Firstly let them run around the garden or have them play an energetic game, say football or similar. Once that period has finnished, you can call them in for tea.

    Once tea is served and they have finnished doing what you usually do before preparing them for bed, bathing them and then reading to them, or watching a small amount of TV; better still since they are seven years old, get them to read to YOU (obviously not both at once!). Get a nice child friendly book which has a slow story line for example Wind in the Willows, Hiawatha or the modern equivalents. Choose one they would both enjoy. Remember you are trying to slow their thought system down, not excite it.

    This would be done in your living room with one of them sitting either side of you, with the TV and radio switched off so there can be no distration. Then you start reading the first page, one child reads the next one, the second child reads the following page and so on in a round.

    Reading aloud makes children tired since it does actually take a lot of mental “exercise” to transpose the written page in to thought, then speech and then back to read the next peice of text.

    Bear in mind you are not dealing with advanced readers here and still very much at the phonetic end of reading so it can be quite mentally tiring, which what you want in order that their brains start to shut down to sleep.

    Once the reading time has finished, and always make sure it is at a chapter end or the end of the book, then you can put them both to bed and tuck them up, kiss them good night and tell them that you will be checking on them to make sure they are asleep and they are OK, but tell them not to think about it.

    Do this every hour until you go to bed, making sure that the landing and the bedrooms are lit with low wattage bulbs as described above. You could even put a dimmer switch in place so that every time you come up to check on them you turn the light down further and further until it is as dim as reasonable.

    Basically what you are doing is boring the children to sleep, and although it will not happen immeditately over the course of time and the pattern has been set, you will find the routine will become near automatic.

    Hopefully with the regime in place, your problem will go skipping of down the yellow brick road.

    Sorry that this is an essay, but the system does take a bit of explaining.

    Let us know how you get on; and remember after June 21st/22nd the nights will start to come in sooner and hopefully by then you will have things well under control ! And some time with your husband….




  3. Ian Webster Says:

    Your story-telling is top drawer! It’s just a story of what every mother faces every day as her kids grow up but, oh, how delightful and engaging is your telling of it!
    Well done!

  4. Sandi Ormsby Says:

    I love the show parenthood, and we watch everything later on the internet. We don’t ever watch real time tv. We don’t have tv…we rely on abc.com, nbc.com, Hulu, and now Netflix vs. cable.

    My son used to go to sleep and stay in bed no problem, and then his sister came along. Once she hit no crib phase, she went to bed for about the first couple of weeks, and then realized the freedom and encouraged her older brother out of bed to play hide and seek. Lovely. Now they antagnoize one another. One will be sleepy while the other is not. The wide awake one either turns their Star Wars light saber night light on/off (accompanied with the light saber sound effects) or someone will sing or keep calling the others name or throw stuffed animals at the other’s bed.

    they fight over which night lights to be used. I like that lava lamp, not that lamp it’s too bright, that lamp is too dark, the sparkle annoys me, that scares me…finally we say “How ’bout we sleep in the dark”

    🙂 I only have 2 so I can’t image 4!


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