Like many modern parents (and which one of you with kids right now
isn't?) I'm part of a two career family. In order to pay the bills, the
mortgage, the car and home insurance, keep a convincing set of double
books so charges for things like phone sex and the profits from things
like the cock fighting ring in our basement remain hidden and still have
time left over for quality parenting, the wife and I have to keep some
pretty crazy hours. I get home just before my 5 1/2 year old daughter
goes to bed, and the bed time ritual is often the only chance I get to
see her. I've found that having a good routine really helps keep this
special time a quality time, and I thought other parents out there (like
anyone who reads this site besides me has kids) might like a few tips.
Set a bed time and stick to it! For us it's eight o'clock sharp. That's
the exact moment I begin asking, then telling, then demanding, then
begging and eventually screaming at my child to for Christ's sake at
least put her pajamas on. Try shouting "I'll turn this TV off if I have
to!" a dozen or so times, but don't actually do it, unless you enjoy the
sound Donald Sutherland made at the very end of "Invasion of the
Suppose your daughter owns 715 pairs of pajamas, and one of them is
either missing or so dirty you wouldn't wrap a corpse in it. That's the
pair she wants. I promise you.
BRUSHING THE TEETH
It's never too early to make sure you child respects good dental hygiene
on. Make sure she knows God only gave her one set of teeth. Well, two,
actually, and the ones she's got right now don't really matter that
much. The point is this isn't England and she has to brush whether she
likes it or not. Don't let her do it herself! She's only 5 1/2 and she
doesn't have the coordination or the desire to get it right. Once you've
got a good lather up she'll start making demands and asking question
that you might understand if you spoke rabid dog. A good way to respond
to this sort of thing is to say "let me think about it", or
"hmmmmm". Do not say "I can't understand what you're saying". All that gets you is
a shirt front full of foamy spit.
BED TIME STORY
If you read to your child each and every night, they'll grow up to enjoy
reading. It's as simple as that. This does not mean, however that you
should let them choose the books. Ever read a Barbie book? The kind with
a row of buttons down one side that make annoying little noises when
your kid pushes them? Our mental institutions and prisons are full of
people who have. Read something you can both enjoy. Russian novels are
good, as are technical manuals, directions for large household appliances and texts on Civil War Battlefield Surgery.
Here's a tip. Anything involving the phrase "if I should die before I
wake" is out. While you may find the possibility of death before the
alarm goes off soothing, try to remember your child has not yet had time
to be brutally disappointed and beaten down by life. Under no circumstances tell your daughter, however true it may be, that those who
die in their sleep are lucky compared to everybody else. In particular
don't point out all the horrible ways you could be completely aware of
your death AS YOU DIE. Don't describe a plane crash, don't tell her
about folks who got bitten in half by sharks or fell into machinery or
were turned inside out and dumped in a field when the Aliens were done
probing them. And didn't I learn all that the hard way... Not to tell
her that kind of thing, I mean. I don't know anything about Alien
abduction. Or probing.
If you think this is the easy part you're obviously childless. Do you
know how many ways the contour sheet alone might be unacceptably placed?
Multiply that by the top sheet, the blanket, the spread and the pillows
and you get the kind of variable that makes career Mathematicians do
that thing the wolf does in Tex Avery cartoons.
Every child has a certain stuffed animal, baby blanket, rubber chicken
or crime scene photograph the absolutely can't sleep without. I guarantee you it's lost.
LULLABY AND GOODNIGHT
It might be a song, it might be a nursery rhyme, it might be signing
some written contract promising you'll still be married to her mother
when she wakes up, but every child has some sort of ritual act they need
completed before they can sleep. With my daughter it's an argument,
featuring the following progression. "I can't sleep. Something doesn't
feel right. I have pins and needles in my hand. You moved the blanket.
Can I have a drink? Can I have a Tissue? I need to go potty. Something
isn't the way it usually is. I have a hair on my tongue. I want
mommie, not you. My nose is stuffy. What did you mean about probing?", Since
it's now at least 10:15, you've been up since 5:45 and you haven't eaten
since Noon, you're in excellent shape for this. See how long you can go
before you start screaming. Looking at this as a competition with
yourself may lengthen the time before your first visit with DSS.
I bet you thought you might have dinner now. Maybe talk with your wife,
watch a little TV. I guess you're pretty stupid. You won't even be down
the hallway before she yells for you. Maybe she's lonely, maybe she
doesn't feel well, maybe you forgot her drink or maybe she isn't your
flesh and blood at all, maybe she's some sort of hellish changeling
who's discovered something the most brutal dictatorships have always
known, that the most profound form of torture is SLEEP DEPRIVATION! But
you know what? You LOVE this child, you know you do, just the way once
you loved the naive dream you had about what parenthood would be like.
So give in. Go lie down with her until she falls asleep which will
probably be shortly after you do. And the pain you're in the next
morning after a night of sleeping on the sixteenth of an inch of
mattress she allows you is worth it. Because tomorrow by God that kid is
going to be asleep by 8:15!
note: Max's kid threw up all
over his last piece, so it is now ruined and lost forever.
note #2: Correction. It was
actually -RoG- who threw up all over Max's last piece... but
that's nothing new.