Having just blogged about how awesome it is to have my kids be older, I now need to backtrack a bit and say that there is one portion of parenting that is never any less tortuous: bedtime. Getting the two of them to bed is still an endless nightmare of aggravation every single night. While they are in separate rooms, with darkening blinds, and they are well aware of the bed-time routine I am often chasing them back into bed and asking them to be quiet for hours after I finish stories and turn out the lights. They have two main approaches to delaying sleep, both of which leave me positively manic with hatred by 8PM, never mind being run ragged by the two for them until as late as 10PM. That is 15.5 solid hours of childcare with no breaks for anyone keeping score at home.
The first weapon in the arsenal is the bathroom. While Liz still wears a pull-up overnight (ironically, once she goes to sleep she is the deepest sleeper in the history of the world), but she and Charlie use the potty approximately 6,745 times (each) per evening. Now you can't tell a kid they can't use the bathroom but, you can imagine how much you want to tell them them that when the toilet has flushed 10 times in an hour, the sink has been running non-stop, there is an inch of standing water on the bathroom counter and no-one is sleeping yet. Add in that they sometimes "just happen' to cross paths and chit chat a little, soon I am filled with such rage that forbidding bathroom usage after 7:30 PM starts to seem totally reasonable.
The second major weapon is the endless requests to utilize mom's concierge service. They need drinks, their teeth hurt, they need a band-aid, they can't find their stuffed animal of choice, they are concerned that their bathing suits are in the laundry and they will need them when we go to Cape Cod...in August...you get the idea. You hate to leave a kid needing something, it feels cruel to make a kid go thirsty or to not take seriously a complaint of illness or injury, but by the 90th request I am ready to blow.
Every night is the perfect storm of my kids frantically doing anything and everything they can to demand my attention (because the previous 12+ hours of non-stop care were not, evidently, enough) and me being really ready for a break. As a result we end every single day with me snapping and announcing something to the tune of "I am not your servant, it is bedtime, shut your mouths, shut your eyes, I do not want to hear a peep until morning, I am done with your nonsense." Not really a great example of me being my best self and this leaves me stressed and upset and completely unable to unwind properly so I can get enough rest to face the next 15+ hour day of child-rearing, housework and general minutiae management. Who wants to end every day with your kids by "yelling" at them?
Thankfully Chris made a great plan. After I do final kisses and lights out, I am off duty. From then on, anything they think they need, they get Daddy. Now, my kids love their Dad, and he is an awesome Dad, but he really is not going to cater to them the way I am. Because he is smarter than I in this respect, he will not drive himself to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion just to ensure that no one is lacking a stuffed animal or has to deal with the injustice of a crooked piece of artwork on their wall. As it turns out, the kids don't actually need me for anything other than the pleasure of seeing me hustle. The goal here is, in fact, just to make sure that I don't ever get to sit and enjoy some time doing my own thing. Side note: kids are assholes sometimes. Chris also really likes this because it gives him the authority to actually parent. Like most primary caregivers, I often gate-keep and butt-in when he is doing his thing. While logically I get that he is an adult, he is more than capable of parenting his own children and his relationship with the kids is its own organism, it can be really hard for me to sign off and mind my own business. Thankfully for all of us, my frayed nerves require that me make this change and I think it is really going to help us all.
Last night I tucked the kids in and that was that. I packed Charlie's lunch, finished the laundry and took a shower, all uninterrupted. I was then able to sit and catch up on the family blog, watch some Torchwood without pausing every five minutes and genuinely relax. Chris still managed to get through two of his class modules (something something federal employee certification something something subject matter expert blah blah blah) and the earth did not crash into the sun. This is the dawning of a new era...well at least until this month's week of travel for Chris...