Christina Currie: The bedtime blues

Bedtime should be the time that your blood pressure goes down. That doesn't seem to be the case in my house.

Maybe my expectations are too high. Maybe my timeline is too short. Maybe brushing teeth and bedtime stories are overrated.

Maybe that's just the way children are.

I usually start at 9 p.m. with the hope that we'd be able to hit our 9:30 p.m. deadline.

Now, I start at 8:30 p.m. and tell the girls if they're ready early, they get a treat.

Last night we almost hit 10 p.m., but it stretched to 10:15 p.m. when Katie burst into tears when she learned that her finish didn't qualify her for a snack (I almost caved -- that will be the only time in our lives when she cries because she can't have a banana).

Here's the thing -- I really like things to be picked up before we go to bed. It's the only way I can figure to keep a handle on the mess that breeds out of control if left for a single day.

So the first step in our nightly ritual is the clean up -- and that's the problem with the whole plan.

At 3 and 5 (we just had a birthday), my girls don't really know how to focus on the task at hand. They start off strong but get distracted within minutes.

There seems to be nothing I can do. Constant reminders (sometimes loud reminders) seem to fade from their minds almost as soon as they leave my lips.

Unless I stand over them directing them from toy to toy, we're talking about an hours-long process.

And that's not at the height of messy. We're just talking tidying up here. Starting earlier just means it takes longer.

Then there's brushing teeth. My girls aren't quite old enough to handle the process on their own, so I help. That launches the "I wanna do it myself" fight.

Why is it they want help with things they should, and could, do for themselves, but no help on the things that require direct adult supervision. Nikki, for example, wants me to put her shoes on every morning (the strappy sandals with Velcro), yet she wants to pour her own milk. Go figure.

Anyway, we compromise on the tooth brushing by taking turns. First I get to brush their teeth to my satisfaction, then they get to.

We're practicing cleaning the sink after brushing, but we're not to the point where that's a required part of the bedtime ritual.

Got to move slowly.

The rest of the ritual is pretty simple in comparison.

The next problem is budgeting in time for all the yelling.

I must say "Go to sleep!" four times every night.

My girls are smart. First it's the request for water. How do you deny your child water?

The second is my favorite. They come out because they need to give me one more hug and kiss.

That gets me every time.

After that, though ... they've burned up all their good excuses and are just messing around.

I've considered separating them into their own rooms. I really feel that would help our nighttime troubles, though it would probably double the mess, thus the clean-up time.

What I really need to do is toughen up as a parent and really crack down on bedtime.

Launching the process with a song just isn't the take-no-flack mom I want to come across as.

I'll work on it.

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