There is a book on the New York Times Best Seller list called, “Go the ‘F’ to Sleep.” It’s funny and it’s relatable if you are a parent with a child that refuses to go to sleep. However, as funny as it may be, it does not reflect the routine that Justin has established in our house. If I were to choose a book it more closely resembles, it would be Dante’s “Inferno” – and specifically the Nine Circles of Hell. It’s not that Justin is combative (although, sometimes he is). His plan is to simply delay the inevitable for as long as possible – thereby making us miserable because WE want to go to sleep. (Please keep in mind that there are NINE circles and I didn’t even bother including the bath/shower/drying hair/brushing teeth routine.) Let’s me elaborate:
Circle One: It’s Time to go to Bed
These are the six most dreaded words in my house. They are usually uttered around 9:30pm with the understanding that we’re really giving him the 30 minute/”one more cartoon” warning. When Justin was younger, he was happy to go to bed if you were to merely suggest it. Today, he fights tooth and nail to stay up as late as possible. (His record is midnight.) He has a million excuses as to why he can’t go to sleep at that particular moment. The top three are: 1) “The cartoon isn’t over” (meaning, the credits), 2) “But, I’m WORKING”, and the best 3) “NO!”
The truth is, we have to herd him into his room like cattle. One of us goes into his room and lays on his bed while making snoring sounds. The other one turns off the television, the lights, (and all other electronics) and starts to cut off access to parts of the house which inevitable forces him back into his own room. I’m not above just grabbing him and carrying him into his room, but at 56 lbs – there is a serious risk of injury….to me.
Circle Two: “It’s Your Turn. No, It’s Your Turn.”
GWE and I usually rotate as to who goes through “the routine” with him. We know that it’s about a 30-45 minute process, so it’s a relief when it’s NOT your night. GWE is usually good about doing her fair share of “Bed Prep”, but there are nights when I can sense that she isn’t going to put up with Justin’s shenanigans. It’s those nights that she informs me that she “forgot” about a proposal that she needs to send out immediately. (Hey GWE – you can’t fool me!!! I can see that you’re on Facebook!! You can’t tell me that your proposals just happen to be the same color blue!! I can see the inverted reflection of “koobecaF” in your reading glasses!!”) Anyway – on those nights, I suck it up and try to get Justin into bed before I pass out.
Circle Three: The Perfect Toy to Sleep with
Once Justin has resigned to the fact that it really is time to go to bed, it’s now time to choose the perfect toy to go to sleep with. He meticulously goes over every item on his dresser and nightstand, but rarely chooses something that it already in his room. Then, he tells whoever is in his room that he’ll be right back and he wanders (slowly) back into the den. He locates the biggest cluster of toys and then, like Caesar deciding the fate of a noble gladiator, he chooses which (usually) large and oversized toy he will be cuddling up next to. If he chooses a toy that he has just received, he likes to keep the box the toy came in as a “bed” so that the toy can sleep next to him. Keep in mind, Justin’s tactic is to DELAY. This process would be cute if it didn’t take forever and prevent us from going to sleep too!!
Circle Four: Let’s Read a Book
Once the toy has been chosen, he is finally prepared to pick the book that he would like for us to read to him. Justin is unwilling to take suggestions. We offer him every book in his room, but he sticks with “Horton Hears a Who,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” and “Cat in the Hat.” Every once in awhile, he will allow a random book into the mix, but after a few pages – he’s prone to grab the book and throw it across the room in an attempt to get you to stop reading it. He’s been going through a very consistent “Dr. Seuss” phase. It’s been 3 years (6 months straight of “Horton”) and I can’t read another one of those books.
I do not like them in the bed, I do not like them to be read.
I cannot read “Horton Hears a Who,” I think that if I do – I will spew poo.
I cannot read “Cat in the Hat,” I’d like to smash it with a bat
I cannot handle “Hop on Pop,” For the love of god this shit must stop!
“One Fish, Two Fish,” can kiss my ass, It was clearly written by someone smoking grass.
By the way, one story is never enough. When you start reading to Justin, be prepared to be there for awhile.
Circle Five: “I need Water”
Once my eyes have glossed over and the words have started to blend together, which is difficult to tell in a Dr. Seuss Book (what is a “Thnerd”?), I put the book away and tell Justin it’s time to go to bed. But, no…..now it’s time for Justin to ask for water. But, not just any water! It must be “cold water with ice in a cup with a lid.” At this point, I’m more waiter than father. I’ve tried returning with water that had no ice – I’m sent back to the kitchen. I’ve tried bringing a cup of water with no lid – I am sent back to the kitchen. If he wasn’t so cute and I wasn’t afraid of going to jail, I would have considered slipping him a little booze to get him drunk and make him pass out. Once he has his water, he drinks as much as he can as fast as he can….which leads us to the Sixth Circle of Hell….
Circle Six: “I need to go Potty”
No sooner then he gets the water in, it must come out. I’m not sure why we don’t just pour the water into the toilet and bypass the middle man, but this is the process. I practically force Justin OUT of bed (yes, I realize how much time I spent getting him into bed) so that he can go potty. As GWE and I have learned, you cannot miss this step with Justin. If you skip step six, be prepared to clean up the pond of urine he leaves in his bed the next morning. As long as he goes potty, he’s clear. There is nothing worse than waking up with Justin the following morning and having him climb into my lap only to realize that his pajamas are soaked and now I’m covered in pee pee!
Circle Seven: “Icepack, STAT!”
Bedtime in our house is not complete without an injury. Sometimes Justin really does hurt himself, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe it is a ploy to get attention and stay awake longer. In the past month alone, Justin has banged his toe on the corner of his bed, banged his toe on the corner of my bed, banged his toe on the corner of the sofa, banged his hand in the dresser drawer, banged his ribcage on a wicker stand, and gotten his foot caught in-between the bars of a crib. The best was when he banged his head on the toilet seat (twice) when leaning over to pull up his pajama bottoms after peeing. Once the injury has taken place, he immediately requests his “bear ice pack” – which we store in the freezer and has been used more than the actual icemaker. At some point, I may just wrap him up like a burrito in bubble-wrap and place him in bed to prevent any further accidents.
Circle Eight: The Negotiator.
The Eight Circle of Hell is where Justin begins to negotiate his way out of going to sleep. At this point, he is back in bed. He is under the sheets and blankets and he’s got his eye-mask on. A few more kisses and “good nights” and then the real fun begins:
“Daddy, don’t go.”
“Daddy, I want you.”
“There’s a monster in my room.”
“The monster wants to eat my toe.”
“Where are you going?”
“Can I watch tv with you?”
“Can I get in your bed?
“Can I sleep with you and mommy?”
“Can you get my Lightning McQueen?”
Once I’ve answered all questions and worked my way out of the room, it’s not uncommon to wait about five minutes and then from the sofa in the den, I can see Justin’s head pop out of his bedroom door.
“Daddy, what are you watching?
“Can I watch?”
“Is it for big boys? I’m a big boy.”
After three or four trips back into his room, I finally convince him that it is time to go to bed. And…..we’re done……
Circle Nine: The 2am Visit
Even when you think you’re done, you’re not done. At two in the morning, I sometimes get a visitor. I hear him open my bedroom door and I can feel him staring at me. He positions his lips directly over my available ear and in the loudest whisper ever, he says “DADDY! I GOTTA GO PEE PEE!!” I tell him ok and that he’s a big boy and he can do it himself. “OK DADDY.” I then roll over and try to go back to sleep….but my night-pissing elf returns. “DADDY, I NEED YOU TO TUCK ME IN!!” Believe it or not, I can actually do this without opening my eyes. I can “Helen Keller” my way from my room, to his room, to his bed for the tuck-in, and then back to my room and my bed without the benefit of sight and sound.
This process occurs nightly. It’s like “Groundhog’s Day.” No matter what I do, the outcome is the same. As far as I’m concerned, the “Go the ‘F’ to Sleep” guy has it easy!! Let’s see how he does after one night in my house!!