A Little Bedtime Story

I have revealed my idiocy to myself.  I thought I posted this entry three days ago.  Now I know why I got no response at all.  That’s what happens, apparently, when you press Save Draft instead of Publish.  I’d feel a little better about that if they were side by side, but no such luck.  Let’s try again!

I used to think that I understood the concept of “sleep”.  It really doesn’t seem that complicated, on the surface:  you lie down, your eyes close, and eight hours later, the only thing you remember is the dream you woke up screaming from.  What do you mean, you have good dreams?  Show-off!  Anyway, not complicated; it’s such a simple concept that you can even mix it up a little by taking something called a “nap”, which from what I hear is like sleeping during the day.  I think that must be a myth, but a good friend insists it’s really possible.

I say that I USED to think I understood sleep.  That was before my children very kindly confused the issue for me.  I’ve mentioned before how they get up before I do; I can count on one hand the number of times in the past six months that I’ve managed to get up earlier than them.  Just as a reminder, they are five and seven; if they were, say, fifteen and seventeen, I wouldn’t care if they got up first—I’d probably jump for joy; I can remember being a teenager and never wanting to get up.  Still, I could live with it if only they would go to bed early—but of course they don’t.  I do put them to bed at a reasonable time, and they cooperate; but every time I’ve tried to back up that reasonable time, it ends in disaster.  I’ve been told that children their age should get eleven to twelve hours of sleep a night—mine clock in at nine hours, maximum.  And they can go all day on those nine hours; they completely gave up on those mysterious naps…three years ago.  Yes, both of them.  If that isn’t proof of psychiatric issues, I don’t know what is.

My children have no idea why this clock makes noise...three hours after they get up

My children have no idea why this clock makes noise…three hours after they get up

By far, the most confusing concept for me is story time.  You know the drill, even if you don’t have kids; the bedtime story is practically a cornerstone of traditional family mythology.  It’s cute, after all:  you sit down, your little angels sit on your lap (or beside you; they don’t stay tiny for long!), you grab a picture book, and they gaze adoringly at it while you read it to them.  Oh, if only it were that simple!

Do the math with me.  I have two children, so that means that each one should, ideally, be able to choose a story exactly half the time.  That’s the plan, anyway, in that I let them alternate nights.  This train started to derail, though, the day that Emma (the seven-year-old) hit kindergarten, and came home with a fully-developed ability to read, tell time, and comprehend a calendar.  Now, she objects to the fact that her nights don’t fall on the same nights of the week, every week.  She gets that the week has seven nights; she even understands the concept of an odd number.  But heaven help me if Sunday night is not her night to pick a story!!!  It gets even better if we have to skip a night; if, say, Emma picks on Sunday, and we have to skip the story entirely on Monday, then on Tuesday, both kids think it should be their turn.  This is the stuff that nightmares are made of—a truly epic battle, indeed.  It usually ends in tears, pain, and screaming, and sometimes the kids cry too.

That isn’t the worst thing they fight over.  Oh no.  On the bookshelf is a stack of books (a rotating stock, actually, as Emma brings home books with the same regularity with which she changes clothes—that is to say, VERY often).  They both make their selections from this stack…but they approach it with very different strategies.  Emma is the deliberator.  She labors over her selection, choosing only the freshest and least-read books.  It may take her ten minutes to choose one, but it will always be interesting, if only because it’s unfamiliar.  Ethan, on the other hand, has a simple strategy:  choose a book, then read the same one for eight or nine consecutive nights.

We have read this book so many times, my great-grandchildren will be able to recite it

We have read this book so many times, my great-grandchildren will be able to recite it

That constitutes a minor annoyance for me, as I slowly get bored with it; but to Emma, this is intolerable.  There are few things that make my daughter furious, but this is one of them.  In fact, I fear for his safety if I weren’t in the room to separate them…the only solution is to allow her to read her own bedtime story on Ethan’s nights.  Which she does.  Out loud.  Competitively.

But I don’t mind.  Even when I have to separate them, I’m glad to do it.  These times won’t last forever; they’re growing up before my eyes.  I know that everyone says that, so much so that it’s become a cliché; but it’s true.  More than that, I want to store up these memories while I can, because I’ve found that they don’t come easily for me.  I already feel like I can remember so little of the past seven years…memories seem to fade so quickly.  The only answer I have for that is to rack up as many good memories as I can, so that some of them will remain.  If that means reading Easy As Pie five hundred times, so be it.  I’ll have plenty of time for variety when they’re grown; for now I’ll settle for routine.

And on that note, I’ll call it a night.  After all, the little ones get up early around here!


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