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The Bedtime Power Struggle (Or: Yes, I'm a Sucker)

Erin Zammett Ruddy

My kids may not be so good at a lot of things (listening, keeping their hands to themselves, not spilling their milk) but they’ve always made bedtime and sleep easy for Nick and me. And so when they have the occasional needy night, I’m OK indulging them. Nick is a hardass 24/7 when it comes to sleep but he’s been away for a few days so lately my (un)rules have ruled. Of course Monday night Nora took things to another level and it became a full-blown bedtime power trip--and I played right into her pudgy little hand. Total. Sucker. 

After reading four books, singing songs and chatting about our day, I left her room and headed down to the kitchen where my mise en place awaited (I was cooking up a nice solo dinner with veggies from my garden). Within a minute of throwing some pignoli nuts in a pan, she screamed my name like Freddy Krueger was in her room. I went back up and that’s when our little dance began. She’d have some ridiculous request, which I would either grant or ignore, I’d say goodnight and leave again, then moments later she’d call me back. Here’s the play-by-play:

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

(I plod upstairs, annoyed, open her door expecting to see something horrifying that warranted her blood-curdling scream and then, in her sweet, raspy voice, she quickly thinks of some reason for me to be there......):

“Mom, what does bumba bobo mean?”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!! Is tomorrow a frambled egg day or a fried egg day?”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!! Where’s my blankey, I can’t find it! Oh, here it is, mom. I found it! It was under my butt!”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you take Ali’s blanket outta here, I don’t want it in my room. I don’t like it. Can you put it in his room? Can I come?”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!! Is it gonna funder tonight? Is it gonna rain? Is it light out still? Is there lightning? Can I see?”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!! Where’s daddy?”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!! I have to pee. I really do. Yes. I do!”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you rub my back?”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!! Can you rock me?”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!! Can you sing me a lullaby? No, not that one, Wheels on the Bus! Yes it is a lullaby, mom.”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!! I need water. Can I come?”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!! My pillow is wet. Yes it is. It is mom.”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!! I didn’t say goodnight to you. No, I didn’t, mom. I need to say goodnight when you close the door.”

-one minute later-

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!!! I want you to read me another book. Can I watch TV? Is Ali asleep? But I didn’t get to say goodnight to him!”

Each time I went in, I thought surely this would be the last. Ha! In between each of the above demands, I’d try to get back to my Housewives/sautéing/wine-sipping set-up. Needless to say I burnt the pignoli nuts twice. I am not exaggerating this ordeal even a little. In fact, I’m sure I missed a few of our exchanges. This went on for about half an hour before I finally picked her up, told her not to say a word and to put her head on my shoulder. I rocked her, sang her an ad-lib lullaby (“And if that diamond ring don’t shine, Mama’s gonna buy you a bottle of wine”), put her down in her crib and told her pointedly that she wasn’t allowed to call for me anymore and that it was time to zip it. And after all of that she had the nerve to curl up in a ball, snuggle into her pillow and say this:

“Mom, can you pees get out of here so I can go to sleep now?”

By the time I sat down to eat I was too stressed out to even drink my wine. Can you imagine? I know I should have just walked out the door the first time and not looked back. But if my kid is screaming for me, I feel like she needs me. Fool! And like I said, I generally have a decent command of bedtime so this was not a typical evening. Thank God. The worst part is, I know she was taking advantage of me and I let it happen. If Nick were home he would have went up the first time, talked to her for a minute, told her to go to sleep and we wouldn’t have heard another peep. Extricating himself from Nora at night is one of the many things he does better than me. And, thankfully, he’ll be home this afternoon!

Have you ever gone through this bedtime BS? When you’re in the thick of it you don’t even realize how ridiculous it is but looking back now I feel like a total rookie. I literally could have done the demo for how not to put your kid to bed. Ugh!

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