Putting my son to bed at night has been a test of my patience since the day he was born.
When he was an infant, I would change and swaddle him and then place him in his crib, careful that he couldn’t slide though any bars or injury himself in any way. When I was secure in the idea that he was safe, I would then give him one last look in the eye, trying to convey a sense of peace and adoration that would hopefully lead him into a mentally healthy sense of self.
We’d stare at each other for a moment and then I would touch or kiss his forehead before making my exit. And without fail, he would then start to squawk.
From then on, I’d have to play this subtle game of easing his eyes closed and then darting away in hopes he’d forget that I was just there.
As he grew older and his language skills engaged, one of the first ways he utilized persuasion was via his bedtime routine.
He’d complain about it being too dark or too light. He’d yell from his room that one of the 276 stuffed animals was unaccounted for. He’d claim to hear strange noises from the closet or above the ceiling.
Whatever it was, it was usually a load of BS and clearly meant to delay going to sleep.
Nowadays, nothing’s changed. His big complaints lately when I announce that it’s bedtime usually revolve around whatever show he’s watching and the fact that it’s not over yet. “Dad, seriously? This is the best part. I’ve been waiting like 20 minutes to see what happens.”
I’m supposed to fall for this ruse, even though I’m well aware he’s seen that particular episode about 80 times.
Another recent incarnation of delay has to do with hunger.
By his description, you’d swear the kid has had nothing to eat for the entire day and that I was intentionally keeping him undernourished (even though I pack him a huge lunch and make sure he has a nutritious dinner with a snack prior to bedtime).
He’ll whine, “You can’t make me go to bed, I’m starrrrrrrrrving.” This combined with a pouty face and faux tears is supposed to lower my guard and force me to acquiesce.
I’ll usually combat this request with a fresh banana or an apple, which he generally scoffs at as “not acceptable for the level of hunger I’m experiencing.”
Sometimes I’ll get facetious and state, “I’m sorry, buddy. Let me throw together some lobster bisque with a fresh baguette and follow that up with a slice of dark chocolate layer cake with creme cheese frosting. And would you like a fresh fruit smoothie to go with that as well?”
Those words will usually result in a dirty look as he climbs the stairs with a steaming attitude.
Of course, the routine is far from over just because he makes it to the second floor. This is when phase II of the bedtime routine kicks in.
I’ll generally wait 5 or 10 minutes and then head up to check on him and invariably he’ll be putzing around with Legos or baseball cards on the floor of his bedroom.
I’ll then ask the same two questions I’ve asked every night since he was able to comprehend language: “Dude, why aren’t your PJs on and have you brushed your teeth?”
“Ahhhhhhhh, I forgot?” is the usual answer.
This is when my blood begins to boil.
“You’ve only got two jobs to do to get ready for bed!” I proclaim loudly. “They have not changed in seven years: Brush your teeth and put on your PJs! It’s just not humanly possible to forget these two things every night of your life!”
He will then test my exasperation even further with a comment like, “Well, maybe I’m not human?”
I’ll then start my highly irritating repetition schtick: “Dude, brush your teeth. Dude, brush your teeth. Dude, brush your teeth. Dude, brush your teeth. Dude, brush your teeth,” until which time he stands up and looks at me like I’m completely insane.
“I heard you the first time, dad!”
Of course, he’ll no sooner walk out of the bathroom and begin the motion of falling into bed fully clothed when I’ll inquire, “Forgetting something?”
“Oh yeah,” he’ll state with feigned surprise.
When he has finally squeezed every possible moment out of the night, I usually lie down beside him and we invariable have our best talk of the day. And in all honesty, it’s those moments that make the whole agonizing process worthwhile.
This week’s feature, “Land Ho!,” is about two senior citizens who decide to go on one last adventure to Iceland in an attempt to squeeze the last bit of excitement out of their aging, mundane lives.
Obviously, this one will appeal to an older crowd but the humor does transcend age. While you might expect the typical senior moments there’s also plenty of youthful indiscretions to keep things lively and upbeat.
Check this one out if life is starting to feel a little blasé. It may just inspire you to head out on your own adventure.
A mature “B” for “Land Ho!”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dom Cioffi