Rachel Tompkins loooooves bedtime. When it finally happens...
You collapse onto the sofa with a glass of wine in one hand, a bar of chocolate in the other, soaking up the complete and utter silence. Yes, it’s that long-anticipated time of day – bedtime! That holy grail that you’ve held hopefully in your sights, then limped towards like an injured gazelle. It sounds heartless, but no matter how much you love your precious little cherubs, there’s nothing nicer than knowing they’re safely tucked into bed and night. Meaning that you can finally relax. So why is it that to most children sleep equals defeat? That no matter how shattered they seem in the afternoon, once the word ‘bedtime’ is uttered they’re suddenly filled with boundless energy. They’re suddenly raring to go, and ready to use every excuse in the book to fight going to bed.
"I’m not tired"
‘No!’ your inner voice bellows. ‘Of course you’re not. That’s why I’ve had to carry you up the stairs to bed, you’ve got dark circles under your eyes, and can hardly lift your head off the pillow!’
We all know bedtime is the worst time to pick an argument with a child though, so instead, in your calmest mum voice you reassure them that you know they’re not tired but Mummy (bloody well) is, so just lie there with their eyes closed and see what happens.... while saying silent prayers that they will actually fall asleep. Telling them to think about their favourite things, i.e. Lego or Charlie and The Chocolate Factory usually works in our house too.
"I need the toilet"
It must be a scientific phenomenon that children can go for hours without needing the toilet when they’re playing with friends, but that split-second they climb into bed, they experience an uncontrollable urge to pee. Despite the fact that they went less than ten minutes earlier.
Another classic delay tactic, but no parent in their right mind will dare risk the Russian roulette of not allowing a pre-sleep toilet visit. They know exactly what they’re doing as they pull out their trump card and wave it triumphantly in our faces. Which is why this excuse to prolong bedtime is sure to succeed every time.
"One more story?"
You can feel your eyelids getting heavy with every book you read, so why aren’t theirs? Don’t get me wrong, I take great pride in the fact that my boys love their bedtime stories. But that doesn’t mean I have the time, or energy, to read to them for hours every night. It’s useful to set limits so they know what to expect. If you read ten stories one night, and none the next, your child might wonder what’s going on. Everyone’s different but we usually have two each before bed, and a few really short back-ups on hand for those nights when you just don’t have the energy to say no to one more.
"My pyjamas are scratchy"
It simply defies all logic how a child can spend an entire afternoon wearing a superhero/princess costume made entirely of polyester and not feel the slightest bit of chafing on their skin. Yet dress them in a pair of soft, cotton, freshly washed pyjamas and there’s a scratchy bit that prevents them from going to sleep at night. Some mums cut labels off to avoid this, but sometimes that just makes it even scratchier. One particular pair of pyjamas in our house were routinely pushed to the back of the drawer to try and avoid this, and others have mysteriously vanished in the wash. If all else fails try turning them inside out. It’ll help to establish if your child is just using it to drag out bedtime at the very least!
"There’s a ghost* in my room"
(*Interchangeable for dragon/Gruffalo/monster/the fox in Peter Rabbit)
All children have something that scares them, and when the lights go out and they’re on their own in their bedroom, that’s often the time the fears creep in. If reassuring them that they don’t exist, or only exist on TV, doesn’t work, then it’s time to take more imaginative action! Fill a spray bottle with water and make a label saying magic monster repellent. Then, get your child to help you spray it around their bedroom before they go to bed. Wins every time just for novelty factor alone.
Drinks before bed is a funny one. You spend the first year trying to make your baby drink as much milk as possible before bed because in your head, lots of milk equates to lots of sleep. Then they turn one and are consuming so much proper food you realise that the quantity of milk has little bearing on what time they wake up in the morning. Then potty-training strikes and the last thing you want them to do is have a drink before bed, in order to avoid bedwetting at all costs.
Once you’ve passed all of those stages you realise that they’re wielding their supposed thirst at you as simply another delay tactic. But us mums can’t be fooled that easily. Oh no! A bottle of water ready by the bed and a small cup of milk on hand for when the request is made does the trick. Touché, timewaster!