As a parent, I never thought I would get to the point where I would say these three simple words: I love bedtime.
It took a while to get here. A long while. My kids are 14 and 12, so some might say it took 14 years to get here. Of course, figure that both kids account for their own years, I think it’s only fair to count both of their years, and thus it has been 26 years of bedtime. But no longer. My wife and I are free.
Let me go back to the very beginning. When our daughter was born, her sleep pattern was this: Do not sleep ever, unless someone is holding you in their arms rocking you and it’s 3:30 in the morning. And then only for four minutes, max. By my estimate, she slept a grand total of 16 minutes her first three years of life.
Fun memory: When we were in the “let her cry” routine of her bedtime, we installed a video camera in her room, where we could watch her not sleep remotely. My wife and I would watch her fit and scream and cry and wail and toss and turn in her crib, all the while assuring each other “She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine.” Then, one night as we watched, we saw her go all Spider-Man in the crib and start crawling up the railing. It was only a matter of seconds until she was at the top railing, hurling her tiny onesie-wearing self over the crib edge. The laws of physics ruled that we would not be able to get to the room before she plummeted to the floor, which did absolutely nothing to help with bedtime or our sanity.
About this time, her brother came along. He was a great sleeper for the first few years. All it took was a bottle and a little rocking to some music and he was out like a light. This was beneficial, because it allowed us to focus on our routine of dealing with his sister, whose bedtime routine at this point consisted of her sitting in her bed stubbornly not going to sleep. Sometimes, she would use that time to announce, “I’M NOT TIRED. I’M NOT TIRED. I’M NOT TIRED.”
By the time our daughter was old enough to go to bed on her own, our son decided it was his turn to become super fun bedtime adventure. I am fairly certain they had a meeting one night in which she said, “Look, man, I haven’t slept in, like, seven years. I need rest. You need to take it from here.”
And take it he did.
My wife and I both uttered the following phrase more times than I care to remember: “I’m not chasing him anymore.” Usually, the chase would end with him finally giving up and falling asleep wherever he might be, such as the stairs, on the table, in the dog’s bed, etc.
Now I am sure there are some of you who had perfect bedtimes with your children and never experienced this kind of mayhem. And to that I say, where were you over the last decade? I would have welcomed your child soothing techniques while my wife and I were playing rock-paper-scissors over who had to try and get the child off the top of the china cabinet.
But that brings us to the present, where, as I said earlier, I love bedtime. Why? Because the only bedtime I have to worry about now is mine. Sleepy? Time for bed. The little ones in my house? Get in your rooms and do whatever. Just don’t wake me. And oh, by the way, on school days, you still have to get up for the bus. And on weekends and during the summer, I’m still going to wake you up long before the crack of noon. Granted, I will let them sleep long enough for my wife and me to have a few cups of coffee and actually spend some time chatting about things that do not involve mediating sibling disputes, but let’s not tell them that.
I know lots of people lament the passing of time with their kids, and, sure, there are some things I miss about them being little tykes. Rest assured, bedtime is not one of them. I am thrilled that they are now at the stage where they can go to bed on their own, and my wife and I no longer have to put up the nightly fight to get the little critters in their bed. For one thing, they’re way too big to be on top of the china cabinet now.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and now lives in Charleston. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.