Bedtime is the last event in the parenting Olympics, isn’t it? It’s the final hurdle, with the finishing line – sofa and wine – tantalisingly within touching distance. But you don’t get a medal, and win or lose you’re awarded the same opportunity to do it again the next day. And then over and over again.
We don’t have children who lie quietly in bed and drift off by themselves. Or babies who go down awake (ha!) They are endlessly energetic and beautiful sleep thieves, so as a result bedtime often stretches on and on. It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint.
But who can blame them for battling bedtime? Being awake is a much better option than boring old sleep. If you’re a baby there’s a universe of new things to stare at and hugs to be had. And if you’re a toddler…well, it’s just the full stop to all your fun and who wants that, really? I can still remember the childhood me being forced to go to bed full of resentment at the amazing stuff that was clearly going to happen once I hopped on the night bus to nodville. Like the terrifying programme about the Tripods being on TV. Or some kind of secret snackage society I definitely wasn’t part of.
We’re pretty relaxed about bedtime, on our house, but even when we think we’ve cracked it and it goes well for months, there’s still room for error.
So here’s my less than expert advice…
Don’t treat it like an individual event. It’s a team sport. Call up the goalkeeper if necessary. Play fair, even if it’s you on the reserve squad that night.
Remember with hindsight, bedtime for one child is a dream, and you should have a sporting chance at getting downstairs at some point compared to…
Bedtime with two children. Definitely don’t do it by yourself…wait, what, you’re on your own tonight? Nine months in I’m still not sure how to do a smooth solo bedtime a deux. It’s always interrupted by the toddler wandering in and shouting ‘why is the baby not awake?’ just as the baby’s eyes flutter shut. Tips gratefully received! Send them all my way please…
Don’t forget to do your homework. As someone who’s always making up excuses for why we’re late, I’m great at on-the-spot bedtime stories. However, I was clueless about this week’s new requested story subject, The Avengers. So like a good Girl Guide, always be prepared. And use all your resources, even if it does culminate in you singing a ‘chill-out’ version of Wind the Bobbin Up a million times. Whatever works.
Don’t ever think you’re home and dry. ‘Aha, they’re asleep!’ you think, as you rise, silently and stealthily, to leave the room. But the minute you breathe a sigh of relief is when the baby will wake with a wail and the toddler will spring up saying ‘where are YOU going, Mummy? You haven’t finished the Avengers story.’ Probably both at the same time. The ball is always in their court, remember that.
Don’t make any plans for the evening. As this is always when your children won’t want to sleep. Even if your plan is eating dinner then going to bed. It’s enough of a plan, they’ll still know.
Don’t sneak a look on social media. There will undoubtedly be people stealth boasting their bedtime skills by Instagramming wine freakishly early. When yours is so near, yet so far.
Don’t forget to expect the unexpected. Some nights your children will actively ask to go to bed freakishly early, and they will go to sleep. You’ll both sit twiddling your thumbs and saying ‘now what?’ And some nights you’ll end up with all of you snuggled in one bed, the baby asleep on the boob and the toddler nestled beside you, and you hear their soft sleep breathing and the peaceful look on their faces will be etched on your heart forever and you’d give anything to freeze time as it’s the most perfect moment.
Even if it did take all night and it’s the wrong bed.
And even once you’re home and dry, don’t think you won’t be in there again in 15 minutes, listening to them breathe and missing them…OK, 20 minutes maybe…
More…milestone cards for mums, things I don’t miss about life pre-children and everything I’ve forgotten about baby weaning.