Weeknights used to be a time to unwind -- having several hours of "me" time was the reward for a long, hard-worked day.
That was then. Now, the hours of 7-9 are the most dreaded of my day. Battling the clock to make sure everything's done on time, cleaning up messes that may or may not require additional professional attention, breaking up verbal and sometimes physical fights, and dealing with endless whining, countless pleas and intense bargaining. No, I don't spend these hours moonlighting at a biker bar or working as a prison security guard. In my house, this is bedtime.
The official bedtime in my home is 8 p.m., but the process is much longer. On a normal day it starts around 7, but normal days are rare -- with Tae Kwan Doe, baseball practices, soccer games and church events to attend. We try to set the stage for a calm and quiet “wind-down” time, but my three sons have a different idea.
All technology is shut off as the time is reserved for imaginative playtime, leftover homework and/or reading. Despite this supposed wind-down time, a fight often brews between the boys over whose toy belongs to whom or which book to read, while we fend off requests to watch TV or play a video game. It's amazing how much of a mess can result in imaginative playtime, as we discover around 7:30 when it's time to clean up and take baths. I guess the boys imagine how much of a mess they can make.
We allow for several minutes of playtime in the tub. But night after night, our boys have a difficult time following one simple request – keep the water in the tub. It’s not for a lack of trying, but somehow Jaydon, 7, Jackson, 3, and Matthew, 8 months, all manage to fumble this task. Whether it’s Jaydon forgetting to close the shower curtain while showering, Jackson spilling a cup on the floor as he plays with toys on the tub’s ledge, or Matthew discovering the magical sensation of splashing, we always end up with a pond on our floor. Sometimes it even requires a plumber’s – and later a drywall repairman’s -- attention, as the water dripped through our kitchen ceiling. At least we’re supporting our local economy.
Next up is the most dreaded part of the night – putting them down to bed. We read that structure is critical to a child, so we created a consistent bedtime routine: the older boys get changed, check off their accomplished tasks on their “responsibility chart,” say nighttime prayers and we tuck each boy in bed with a kiss. It’s a routine that works for us. Unfortunately, they have established their own routine. First they plead with us to stay upstairs. Then they plead with us to keep on the lights. Then as we head downstairs, our toddler runs to us saying, “I thought you would stay upstairs?”
After a second tuck-in, we go downstairs and flip on the baby monitor. It’s quiet … until we hear the thundering footsteps of Jackson (amazing how a 35-pound child sounds like a giant when roaming the hallways), sometimes followed by the cries of our baby as Jackson thought it would be a nice gesture to toss toys in the crib.
Other times it's followed by the screaming of Jaydon, as Jackson decided it would be a fun prank to flip on the bedroom lights and run back to bed. This process continues for almost an hour. It’s usually over after Jackson runs downstairs one last time saying, “I so sorry for going downstairs," then heads upstairs to fall asleep, sometimes even in his bed.
Score: My Three Sons 1, Parents 0