Archive for the ‘Bedtime’ Category

My wife descended the stairs, with one towel-covered pajama-bottomed boy in tow.  “Your son is upstairs hiding in his room and wants you to find him.”  This declarative sentence seasoned with a touch of exasperation, a dash of amusement, and a sprinkling of tired love.  Tubby time was over and the bedtime show needed to begin soon, lest storytime be late enough to push the actual bedtime past 8:30 into dangerous territory.

With a nod of assent I passed her on the stairs, ready for another drawn out game of hide-and-seek.  Four-year-old Peter has unfortunately become very good at the Hide while we Seek.  He sometimes eludes us for several minutes when he Doesn’t Wanna, a state with increasing frequency these days.  I reviewed my options.  In the cabinet under the bed?  Beneath a pile of covers?  Behind a door?

Fortunately it did not take long, as in this case, Peter was anxious to be found.  He leapt out of his closet, dry but still naked, with a big Boo! and giggled.

“There you are!” I said, playing it up.  “I was WONDERING where you were.”

“Wasn’t dat a good hiding place, daddy?” he said proudly, as I proceeded to gather the appropriate bedtime artifacts so we could complete the transition downstairs.

“Yes, very good in there.  I almost didn’t see you.  Let’s get your pull-up on and some jammies.”

“That was my mimicry.”

I did a slight double-take.  Wha-wha-what?  “Your what, Peter?  Did you say, ‘mimicry’?”

“Yes!  My mimicry.  Hiding in there.  It made it harder to see me.  Pretty good, huh, dad?”

No, it’s not *quite* the correct usage of mimicry… and yes, I had to look it up later to make sure it was what I thought it was.  But who cares?  Talk about a 10-cent word.  It’s enough to restore my faith in educational TV.   “Did you learn that from Wild Kratts, buddy?”

“Yes!” he said proudly.  “On Wild Kratts!”

Man, I love that show.  And PBS.


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It was bedtime.  Peter was not listening.  My wife literally pushed him out of his bedroom like a football linesman on a blocking sled.  She got him to the bathroom door, denying him further bouncing on the bed, in an attempt to get him to brush his teeth.  Losing stories had already been threatened twice.  He squirmed away and went to jump on Jack’s bed.  Jack watched, bemused, as he brushed his own teeth.

Tag!  It was daddy’s turn.

“Peter, get off the bed,” I said in my best deep daddy voice.  He shook his head no.  Unaccustomed to this level of defiance, I went to my DEFCON 2 voice.  “Peter.  Get off the bed.  Now.  Or it will be no stories and Daddy will be mad at you.”  He gave me what can only be called a shit-eating grin, stepped away from me on the bed, and said, “No!”

Yeah.  That would be DEFCON 1.

Moving swiftly, I snatched him from Jack’s bed with the patented Parent Arm Grab(TM) and carried him to his own.  His demeanor had suddenly changed.  Crying, he tried to get out of his bed but I picked him up and flopped him back on the bed.  I admit it, it felt good.  It didn’t hurt him at all but let him know I was serious.  He tried to get out again, and started saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!  I changed my mind!  I listen!”  But I told him it was too late, he missed his chance, and I grabbed him and put his head back on the pillow, and started tucking him in.  Screaming, crying, yelling for mama, he went into full tantrum mode.  Mama made a guest appearance simply to tell him that maybe tomorrow he would listen.  No stories, we reiterated, while he wailed and apologized and screamed.  Katherine and I had agreed previously that our little ornery jerk of a 3 year old had something like this coming to him, and the timing was right.  Katherine offered to lie down with him, and I went to get him some milk which I knew might calm him down.  No stories was a Big Deal, and he knew it.

On the way out of the room, I ran into Jack, looking very serious.  He had brushed his teeth and was holding a book.

By the time I came back with a sippy cup of milk, Katherine was at the bottom of the stairs, beaming. “Listen,” she told me.

From upstairs I could hear Jack, in Peter’s room: “The mother bird sat on her egg.  The egg jumped.” 

“He was so upset that Peter wasn’t getting a bed time story, so he just came up to him and said, ‘I’ll read you a story, Peter.’  My buttons are bursting.”

We listened for a while, as Jack picked his way through Are You My Mother?, adding sound effects, making Peter laugh, and otherwise Fixing The Evening for everyone.

Peter is certainly in the middle of his pain in the butt stage.  Jack has his whiny or trying moments too.  But Jack has always shown an incredible amount of empathy for other people, especially his brother, and is one of the first to reach out and take care of him (when they’re not beating each other to a pulp wrestling.)  And Peter, stubborn as his rock of a name suggests, really responds to it, too.  How dare these kids make us fall in love with them again?  We’re trying to be angry!  Oh… okay.

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Jack asked us to leave his notebook — the one that he’s writing his story in — by the end of his bed so he could add to it in the morning.  In fact, Katherine noticed him still up and playing with the notebook after bedtime.  He was numbering the pages, one at a time.

We found the notebook after he had fallen asleep.  He had made it past 100 — all neatly numbered, all the way up.  By the time he got to 100, though, it was clear he was getting sleepy.  He did not finish numbering the entire notebook.  His last numbered pages look like this:



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When Jack wakes up every morning, it’s a new day.  No matter how much crying or whining he does the night before, he usually wakes up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and tackles the morning routine (tea, morning show, breakfast, get dressed, off to bus stop) with a smile.  He rarely remembers whatever was bothering him the night before.

Lately, for Peter, 9-11 hours of sleep is but a pause button for his brain.  Witness the last two evenings:

Bedtime #1: Very late (9p) due to a long nap from 2-4p.  Peter still doesn’t want to go to bed; he insists that he needs to go back downstairs and “play with his guys.”  Finally, after crying and yelling, and a sippy cup of milk, he’s off to dreamland.

Morning #1: At 6am (way early for him) Peter comes into our room, and says, “Daddy — you open da gate so I kin go downstairs and pway wiff my guys?”

Bedtime #2: Normal bedtime (7:15ish), though Peter is upset because, after repeatedly denying he wanted to watch a show with Jack so he could play on pbskids.org instead, now wants to watch a show  (“Buh I changed my mind!”).  A sippy cup of milk breaks through the sobbing and he’s comfortably wrapped in his covers.  He asks me to find one of his favorite cuddly animals, a stuffed cow named Cow, but he falls asleep while I’m looking for it.

Morning #2: Peter slips into our room at 6:30 and comes to my side of the bed.  Does he say “Good morning?” or “Hi, Daddy!” or “You ‘wake, Daddy?”  Nope!  He asks, “Daddy — did you find Cow?”

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Jack has a very powerful Extinction Burst — the secret weapon your brain uses to fight off changing new behavior it doesn’t like — and it was in full display while we tried to get him to do regular teeth-brushing with REAL toothpaste.  He had been brushing with the Orajel baby toothpaste for 6 years now, using a fluoride gel thing in the evenings to help… but he was already getting cavities.  When our dentist had Peter move to real toothpaste (and he’s only 3!), we realized it was time to force the issue with Jack.  Time to brush your teeth, with real toothpaste, both morning and evening.

First we tried rewards.  “You get a sticker on the chart every time you brush; when it fills up you get a new $0.99 iPad app.”  Not enough.   “We’ll give you an extra $1 every day you brush your teeth.”  Still not enough, even though he’s saving to buy a Wii game he really wants.  That evening Katherine moved on to “just do it” and “because I said so” and “I’m your mother” and that brought out the expected obstinate stubborn boy we know and love (and fear).  There was howling and crying.

A coworker told me she’s tackled her boys and held them down while she brushed their teeth.  I was seriously considering it.

The next morning I started off with gentle encouragement, since Jack is better in the mornings.  He made it to the sink, made it to holding the toothbrush, then balked.  I escalated to threats.  “You can’t watch any TV until you brush your teeth” was met with “Fine, I’m not gonna watch any TV today.”  Finally, I said, “I won’t let you go downstairs until you brush your teeth.”  That brought the extinction burst out in full force.  “I don’t want this toothpaste — I wanted the watermelon one!”  (This, after he picked out the toothpaste he wanted at the store.)  “I don’t feel like this right now.”  (Too bad.)  “I want Mama to help, not you.”  (Mama’s sleeping.)  “I’m going to go say hi to Mama first.”  (Okay, I’ll be right here, but you come right back…. tap tap tap…. tap tap tap… oh look, he’s now snuggled up with Mama in the bed.)

That morning we eventually got him to brush his teeth, practically wrestling him into the bathroom.  That evening, I went to rehearsal, and when I came back, he had put up a huge fuss again in the evening.  There were tears, there were I-hate-you’s, there were you’re-not-my-mama’s, the works.

The next morning, though, he brushed his teeth with the adult toothpaste without resistance.  And ever since then, he’s done it with little to no fuss — he’s already up to 5 stickers on his new sticker chart, after all.

It’s so, so hard to see the other side of the hill when you’re climbing up it.  There are so many things that Jack does that are hard to reinforce because it’s so much easier just to give in and say “Okay, buddy, I’ll let you do thing you probably shouldn’t be doing regularly just this one more time,” and then all our work is lost.  So it was nice to see Jack, in a span of a couple hard-fought days, make it through to the other side.  Of course I brush my teeth, morning and night, with regular toothpaste.  Doesn’t everyone?

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It was bedtime again.  “May I have some milk?” asked Peter.  He had become unfailingly polite when he wasn’t throwing a tantrum.  Vomiting up any food you try to keep down over the last two days probably contributed to that.

Katherine and I exchanged glances.  We remembered picking barfed up chunks out of his hair last night after he had asked for some milk, which lasted all of 30 minutes in his stomach.  “He already had a yogurt,” I pointed out.  My wife had already been thrown up on twice today.  The day before was… four? five?  She had lost count.  Peter’s most recent pair of pajamas were already in the wash along with other casualties: a blanket, socks, one of the couch cushion covers.  A three year old isn’t good at anticipating throwing up, and is even worse at aim.

Given her last few days of cleanup, Katherine had veto power.  She shook her head.  “How about some water… or maybe some juice?”

Peter nodded.  “Juice.  A juice box.”

As I headed down the stairs, I wondered to myself what flavor Peter wanted.  I asked Katherine, “What goes best with the carpet?”

So I got him apple and white grape.  (Peter sipped it and said it tasted like medicine.  Then he went to sleep.)

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Jack was a pain in the butt today, by all accounts.  But as he was drifting off to sleep tonight (after begging for someone to stand by the door for a few minutes), he said the following:

“I have a big family, huh.  They take me to all sorts of places.  Like to the carnival, and to cooking class….. I love my family.”

Then he rolled over and snuggled into his pillow.

(Katherine: “It makes me want to kill him slightly less.”)

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