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Night, Night Sweetheart: Lessons on How Not to Put a Toddler to Bed

I’m tired. It’s late. Let’s hope that Shakespeare was right when he wrote that “Brevity is the soul of wit.” This is going to be short.

We have a child that will not go to bed. And, because she is a twin and shares a bedroom with her sister, we have two children that will not go to bed. It’s bad, she’s bad (I mean, we love her, but what can I say, she’s driving us nuts), and I’ve concluded that we’re bad at dealing with it.

There was a time when I thought this book was a funny, outrageous take on bedtime. I’ve now realized that it’s brilliant non-fiction, and a quasi-biographical portrayal of the Harrington household.

Our evening routine looks like this:

  1. Dinner
  2. Bath
  3. Treat
  4. Cartoon (although she’s not that into it)
  5. Brush teeth
  6. Books
  7. Bed

That’s when her routine begins. As soon as Heather or I shut the bedroom door, our REM-resistant daughter starts corrupting her sister, cajoling her to turn the lights back on (who’s idea was it, anyway, to install light switches so low that 2.5 year olds can reach them?). “Turn light on, Sissy. Light on,” we hear. She still has a pacifier (her “binky”) at bedtime, so her words are a bit garbled, but her message is crystal clear: Party on.

We react with niceties for a couple of rounds. “Please keep the lights off girls. Love you. Sweet dreams.”

Then we employ mild threats. “Santa’s watching. Be good.”

Then bribes. “How about a sip of milk? You can have a sip of milk if you go to bed.”

By this point, she starts to dismantle the room. Sock and underwear basket is toast. Wipes everywhere. Sheets off. Blankets strewn. She’s in some form of undress, shirt on the bottom, pants up top (Oops! – she’s a big fan). Many times it’s a full blown toddler “pants-off, dance-off.” A recent low point (although it was pretty funny) was when she got ahold of a tube of Desitin diaper rash cream and smeared it all over her face, her sister’s face and their baby dolls’ faces. That was fun to get off at 10 p.m.

45 minutes in and we start dropping the heavy artillery. “If you turn this light on one more time, the binky is gone!”

She turns the light back on. And we don’t carry through with the threat because, come on, she’s gonna go nuts without her binky.

She senses our fear, then our desperation. Finally she shows mercy and relents. We lost this battle. And we’re losing the war. But she’s asleep. And that’s good enough for now.

In any event, the clock is ticking to tomorrow’s dinner time…and that’s a whole different story.

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